Fall prevention is important for several reasons, the first being that it will prevent a fall that can lead to death. That’s pretty darn important. But even if a worker avoids death from a fall, there are injuries that can kill later.
A plethora of equipment exists for businesses with workers who perform their jobs at heights. How do you know which is best? Should you be tied to anchor points while wearing a full body harness or on a loading rack with non-slip steps and walkways? How do fall arrest systems differ from fall prevention? You may think whatever equipment you are using is okay as long as your employees don’t plummet to their death, but fall arrest can sometimes be just as fatal as no protection at all.
Wearing a harness can get a worker killed. If a worker is wearing a fall arrest system and a freak accident takes place, say a fire breaks out, it’s every man for himself. What if the worker is panicking and can’t get out of the harness? Also, if a worker falls and begins to swing the act of the body slamming against a wall or other material at any sort of speed can break a lot of bones.
In addition to being stuck in a harness or body slammed into a cement wall, there are two other situations that can be life threatening – harness hang and crush syndrome.
Harness Hang is sometimes called “suspension trauma”. This is a serious issue that can happen fast when the body is held upright without any movement for a period of time. If a worker is strapped into a harness he/she will eventually faint because the weight of the body against the harness causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. If this happens, death is possible and can happen within a few minutes. Therefore, if for some reason you MUST use fall arrest then all workers should be trained on how to bring a fallen coworker to safety quickly.
What happens to the body during Harness Hang is that blood accumulates in the legs and if the individual moves suddenly after being immobile for a long time orthostatic intolerance can occur. Orthostatic intolerance happens when a person who is hanging upright for a period of time suddenly reclines. The pooled blood with its reduced oxygen content starts to flow back into the body and can have negative effects on the brain, kidneys and other organs. Since kidneys are highly sensitive to blood oxygen, renal failure can occur. So a fallen worker must be rescued within several minutes using proper safety procedures so that blood pooling and orthostatic intolerance do not result in a serious or fatal injury.
Crush Syndrome is a life-threatening situation that happens most often with earthquakes, climbing accidents and on industrial job sites. When a consistent force is applied to the body – like when a wall of a building or a boulder falls on the legs. The compression causes a circulation decrease in the affected area. The body compensates by producing a large amount of lactic acid. Cells leak and begin to die off. The contents of these cells are dumped into surrounding tissue and usually settle around the affected area.
If a person is left in this position for four hours or more, crush syndrome can take place. At this point, even though there is a devastating injury it does not become life threatening until the object is removed from the patient. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to provide appropriate care before extrication because when the blood starts to flow again, the toxins from the dead cells race through the body. Several things can happen at this point: renal failure from myoglobin in the kidneys, heart arrhythmia caused by excess potassium, or purines that attack the liver and the lungs.
However, on a job site, if a worker is using a harness as fall protection and he/she is knocked unconscious during a fall, hanging motionless in the harness for a long period of time can produce the same conditions in the legs as if they were trapped under a rock.
But since harness hang happens so fast, it can kill a worker before crush syndrome even begins. So the best thing to do in case of a fall is to have trained employees who can lower the worker to safety as quickly as possible before either harness hang or crush syndrome can take place.
Ideally, every company would use only fall prevention equipment to keep their workers safe from falls. Carbis specializes in the design and manufacture of fall prevention equipment that keeps workers from falling, so neither harness hang nor crush syndrome are issues any company would need to worry about. Getting rid of falls and keeping workers safer has other benefits, too. Less down time and faster throughput equals better productivity and savings in the long run. Check out what Carbis has to offer and create a safer environment for your employees.