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Do you know the risks posed by life-saving fall harnesses?

If you work in construction or another industry in South Carolina or elsewhere that exposes you to the dangers of heights, you most likely risk your life every day. Even those who work on cell towers, water towers, utility poles and other heights may not realize the risks they take. You may believe that you can suffer no harm because your employer provides you with a safety harness in compliance with the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but that might not be enough.

Did you know that the device that is supposed to save your life could also cause your death? Have you heard of orthostatic intolerance? This is also known as suspension trauma, and has to do with the manner in which the straps of the harness -- especially those in your inner thighs -- restrict blood flow. Safety authorities warn that rescuers must remove any worker who is suspended in a fall harness from the restraints within six minutes.

What are the risks?

According to medical experts, your general state of health could determine the likelihood of you suffering orthostatic intolerance. Your age, the strength of your heart and more can play a role. Signs of danger while suspended include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting
  • Venous pooling or accumulation of the blood in the legs

The danger significantly increases if you struck your head in the fall, or for some other reason became unconscious and immobile. It is important for the suspended victim to be able to move to encourage blood flow. Immobility together with the restraints of the fall harness can prevent normal blood flow to the heart, brain and other vital organs that might lead to life-threatening injuries.

Safety authorities recommend the use of devices that are available to allow self-rescue. There are two systems available that employers can issue along with full-body fall harnesses that might save the lives of employees if rescue workers cannot get to them within six minutes.

  • Suspension trauma relief steps: This small accessory is easy to deploy if you should fall. It comprises of leg straps that provide footholds for you to stand on. It will allow you to flex your leg muscles, which might increase circulation of blood. Although this device cannot save your life, it could prevent orthostatic intolerance.
  • Integrated self-rescue harness system: You can attach this device to your full-body harness to work along with your rescue system and anchor point. This system can allow you to control your descend after your harness has arrested your fall. However, you will have to be conscious to make use of this device.

If you are suffering the consequences of suspension trauma, you are entitled to pursue financial assistance through the South Carolina workers' compensation program. Many victims of workplace accidents utilize the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate benefits claims while they recover and prepare to return to work.

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