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That which must save a life can also take a life

Friday, January 13, 2017

If you are a construction worker in New York or Long Island, you may feel comfortable with the fact that your employer provides you with a fall harness whenever you work at a height of over six feet. You also get a lanyard, and the equipment is in good repair — so, you should have no reason to be concerned about your safety. However, you may be at more danger than you realize.

Fall protection equipment must stop the fall of a worker before he or she slams into the ground below. However, in a suspended position in the constrictions of the fall harness, the fall victim’s life may be in danger. Without the ability to fall into a horizontal position, the suspended position hampers the body’s normal functions. This typically leads to a condition known as suspension trauma or orthostatic intolerance that can affect the victim’s limbs, his or her brain, and it could even result in death.

What happens to the suspended body?

If the suspension lasts too long, the following can take place:

  • Venous pooling — The vertical position of the body along with gravity can compromise the normal blood flow, and blood can pool in the legs.
  • The tightness of the harness at the top of the legs can exacerbate the restriction of blood flow.
  • The immobility and pooling of blood can threaten the victim’s limbs. Furthermore, the lack of oxygenated blood flow to the brain and heart can also jeopardize those organs.
  • This can also happen to a person standing for too long. However, in this situation, the person will typically fall down and be in a horizontal position in which the legs, heart and brain are on a similar level for normal blood flow.

What are the danger signs?

Removing the suspended worker from the harness within the first few minutes might avoid permanent health damage. Other factors that can intensify the gravity of the situation include the victim’s general health, levels of hydration and other injuries suffered in the incident. If he or she suffered head trauma or lost consciousness, the situation could be critical.

The following signs can indicate danger:

  • Breathlessness and faintness
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Hot flashes and profuse sweating
  • Paleness and remarkably low blood pressure
  • Increased or abnormally low heart rate
  • Loss of vision.

The most appropriate way to prevent severe consequences that may lead to loss of limbs, heart damage, brain trauma or even death is to have emergency rescue protocols in place to remove the injured worker within minutes. The longer the suspension lasts, the greater the danger. Employers must also ensure that each employee’s fall harness fits properly to prevent dangerous restriction of blood flow.

While such a traumatic experience is not wished on any New York construction worker, it can happen, and you can rest assured that workers’ compensation benefits will cover the financial losses that such an incident can cause. To allow you to recuperate, an experienced workers’ comp attorney can handle the claims process on your behalf.

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