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Permanent disability: A fall harness can cause suspension trauma

A significant percentage of accidents at Ohio workplaces involve falls. Not providing a worker with the required fall protection is a serious safety violation, even if no accident occurs. However, the same personal protective equipment that can arrest a fall can cause severe damage to a worker. Depending on the efficiency of the protection provided, a fall accident can even cause temporary or permanent disability.

When a worker falls and the safety equipment stops the fall but keeps the person hanging in the harness, a condition called suspension trauma can occur. This poses a severe health risk that is also known as orthostatic intolerance. The health status of the suspended worker will play a role in how severely the condition affects the worker.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration explains that prolonged suspension in a full-body harness can cause weakness, dizziness, sweating and fainting. Blood may also accumulate in the veins, with serious consequences. The sooner a worker can be retrieved from the suspended position, the better. For this reason, it is vital for the company's rescue protocols to include rapid response in such circumstances. OSHA guidelines recommend the extrication of a worker in a fall arrest harness within six minutes.

Workers in Ohio, even those who were fortunate enough to have employers who complied with OSHA regulations by providing fall protection, may have incurred medical expenses after a fall accident. Relief is available through the workers' compensation insurance system. Along with medical expenses, lost wages will be covered. In the event of temporary or permanent disability, additional awards will be considered.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, "Suspension trauma prevention", Accessed on June 28, 2016

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