Suspension trauma – also known as, harness-induced pathology (1), orthostatic shock while suspended (2), harness suspension (3), suspension trauma cascade (4) and orthostatic intolerance (5) has been a topic of debate in the mountaineering and industrial community for decades. What is it? What isn’t it? And what do we do about it?
Earn recertification points
After a fall, a worker may remain suspended in his or her harness before being rescued. Depending on how long the worker remains suspended, the sustained immobility can lead to unconsciousness and even death. This is because of “venous pooling,” a condition that occurs when a person’s legs are immobile and blood pools in the legs, reducing the amount of blood circulating in the body.
Suspension trauma prevention
Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)
In this article the chemistry and physiology of suspension trauma will be explored, both during suspension and after the fall victim is brought down to the ground, and also ways to protect against this hazard. For safety specialists, especially those writing fall protection plans, this information is important to understand so that the hazard can be mitigated and rescue properly planned. For emergency medical personnel responding to a rescue of a suspended worker, knowing the physiology behind suspension trauma is key in providing proper treatment to the fall victim.
What happens after your fall arrest equipment saves you?
You are carrying out work at height. You have put all of the safety controls in place and are using all the necessary equipment for the job. Even so, the unthinkable happens and you trip and fall off the edge. Immediately your fall arrest equipment takes effect and you are saved from a fall which most certainly would have ended in injury or possibly even worse.
Suspension trauma, also known as orthostatic intolerance or harness hang syndrome, can be a killer. Although its effects have been known about for decades, it is only recently that industry regulators, rescue teams and all those who wear harnesses as part of their work have started to take notice.
Rapid Reviews: Don’t leave me hanging! Suspension trauma management.
I was recently asked for a summary of the evidence available in management of suspension syncope (also commonly known as suspension trauma). On a quick glance through numerous textbooks in preparing this article including Emergency Care in the Streets, Emergency Care, PHTLS, ATLS, ATT and ITLS manuals, there were no specific references made to management of these patients. Usual disclaimers regarding scope of practice, guidelines etc. apply.
First Aid following Harness Suspension
This Technical Briefing Note is designed to clarify the latest thinking and outline medical recommendations on first aid response for persons rescued from suspension after a fall. These recommendations are based on the Evidenced Based Review prepared by The Health and Safety Laboratory and The University of Birmingham (UK) for the Health & Safety Executive in the UK earlier in 2009.