An often overlooked aspect of a fallen worker is what happens between the time of the fall and the worker’s rescue. This is a time where hopefully, the worker can assess any injuries, call for help, utilize training and carry out the rescue plan the company has written.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1926.502(d)(20) states that employers must provide prompt rescue in the event of a fall. One primary reason OSHA requires a prompt rescue is the danger of prolonged hanging in a safety harness. OSHA also requires companies to have a written rescue plan in place at every job site when working at heights.
A free downloadable rescue plan template can be found here.
A suspension trauma relief strap is often an underutilized piece of equipment for a safety harness. Not all safety harnesses include one, in fact, there are very few that actually do. This good, low-cost item allows the employer to equip an extra safety feature to every personal fall arrest system.
Suspension trauma relief straps can look different and can be deployed differently depending on the manufacturer. They all aim to accomplish the same thing, to relieve pressure on stressed points of the body when someone is suspended after a fall has been arrested.
Suspension trauma relief straps are attached near the waist of each safety harness, usually by looping a section of webbing around the harness strap. The strap will need to be adjusted to the height of the worker.
When used, a section of webbing with a loop at the bottom or a section of webbing that attaches to a connector on the other hip allows a worker to step into or onto the trauma relief strap. This alleviates and relocates pressure on the body and provides relief to areas that can be affected by a worker hanging in suspension.
An area of concern when dealing with suspension trauma is always the femoral arteries which are located on the inner thigh and are also a point of great pressure during the suspension.
Medical experts have produced differing opinions on the effects of prolonged suspension on a fallen worker; virtually all agree that redirecting pressure to the feet via standing in a trauma relief strap provides a needed redirection of pressure.
Suspension trauma is the most commonly used term. Other terms sometimes used when talking about prolonged hanging in a safety harness include; harness hang syndrome and orthostatic intolerance.
Once an employer decides to add suspension trauma relief straps to their personal fall arrest systems, they need to be sure to include the deployment and use of the straps in their fall protection training. It is also necessary to acknowledge the use of trauma relief straps in their written rescue plan.
As mentioned before, trauma relief straps can be a very low-dollar item that can prevent permanent damage from hanging for long periods of time. If you have ever been in a training exercise where you are lifted up by a tripod or something similar, 90% of your weight is at the top of your legs, making hanging for an extended amount of time extremely uncomfortable and can lead to potential medical issues.
It’s important to have trauma relief straps for every harness a company uses. The purpose of a trauma relief strap is for the comfort and safety of the workers if they were to fall. It’s a good idea to purchase a trauma relief strap for every harness that is purchased.
There are a couple of different styles a trauma relief strap comes in. The first is a stirrup style where the worker steps in with each foot. The other style is a single strap that you step on like a bridge. Which one you choose really comes down to user preference.
Malta Dynamics sells the single wider strap style. If you are in a situation where you are suspended, it’s a wider strap so you can move around a little easier.
Here is a suspension trauma relief strap demonstration video that Malta Dynamics has recorded that explains the different styles of trauma relief straps.
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