July 1, 2015 mountainproductions

What is Suspension Trauma?

We spend a lot of time training with our safety gear. After all, a product is only as good as the knowledgeable person using it. From donning a harness to establishing anchor points at height, our crews are always trained for heightened awareness when it comes to safety (and if you aren’t, what are you waiting for?).

Along with knowing the proper use and handling of fall protection items on site, workers also need to be aware of the dangers that occur after an incident happens, and how to quickly act. We invest a lot into fall protection systems to prevent the unthinkable, but there are always inherent dangers that come with our jobs that we can’t always avoid.

In the incident of a fall, a worker’s harness and fall protection system (when used properly) can save their lives, but the danger doesn’t end once a worker’s fall is stopped. Without quick action and competent rescue, the harness that, at first, saved someone’s life, could become the cause of injury or even fatality.

When working at height, know how to respond if crisis strikes

When working at height, know how to respond if crisis strikes

“I felt I could stay in this position for a long time. Three minutes later, maybe less, I wondered why I suddenly felt so hot. The next thing I knew, they were reviving me from unconsciousness.”

This quote, taken from the article “Will Your Safety Harness Kill You? by Bill Weems and Phil Bishop, begins to describe the danger of suspension trauma, and the surprisingly short timeframe that it takes to kick in.

“Suspension trauma death is caused by orthostatic incompetence (also called orthostatic intolerance). Orthostatic incompetence can occur any time a person is required to stand quietly for prolonged periods and may be worsened by heat and dehydration.”

Because suspension trauma is caused by improper blood flow throughout the body, a worker suspended by a harness is unable to orient their body in a horizontal position that regulates blood flow back to normal conditions. With gravity pulling blood into the lower legs, return flow to the heart is reduced, which eventually causes the brain’s blood supply to fall below a critical level. Add the safety harness straps that apply pressure on leg veins to this scenario and the result is a worker in serious trouble—if not rescued in a timely manner.

Read this informative article in full here.

This article dives into the topic of suspension trauma, as well as provides recommendations on handling each phase of fall protection (a worthy share indeed!).

A product that directly addresses the issue of suspension trauma is the harness accessory from DBI-SALA termed the Suspension Trauma Safety Strap. The Suspension Trauma Safety Strap was designed to help a worker overcome the potential negative health impacts of suspension trauma by allowing the worker to stand up in their harness. This relieves the pressure applied to the arteries and veins around the top of the legs. Simply put, this accessory can save your life.


Educate your workers on every scenario and phase of an incident, from the moment they put a harness on, to the crucial minutes during a rescue. With a job that requires your head to be in the clouds, you can’t afford to waste any second getting back to the ground in a crisis.

This article is a brief introduction to the topic of suspension trauma. Training with certified professionals regarding the dangers of suspension trauma and how to safely rescue a worker is always encouraged. If you’re looking to learn more about this or other important worker safety topics, please give us a call. We can help find the right training program that will educate your workers and give them the confidence to act safely in an incident. 
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