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Fall arrest harness: The life-threatening safety device

Does your job in Minnesota have you working at heights that require you to wear a fall arrest harness? Have you received adequate training in the correct use and maintenance of the gear? If you are not familiar with the proper inspection steps before you strap on your harness, then you will probably also be unaware of the fact that a fall arrest system can save your life -- only to cause your death.

Did you know that you could lose consciousness within minutes from the arrest of the fall? Suspension trauma can cause your death if you hang for more than about five minutes. Your level of understanding of the risks could determine how safe you are throughout the different phases of a fall.

Compliance before the fall

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines and regulations that cover fall arrest systems. Make sure you comply with those rules because the following mistakes can cause your death:

  • Some workers will not wear fall harnesses and instead risk fatal falls because they feel uncomfortable and restricted working while wearing a fall harness.
  • Others modify the structures of the equipment to make it more comfortable.
  • The length of the lanyard plays an essential role because, the further you fall before the lanyard arrests your fall, the higher the bodily stress upon the arrest.
  • If the lanyard is too short, you will have to reposition your anchor frequently. This could cause frustration and lead to workers leaving their lanyards unsecured.

For these reasons, careful planning of the lanyard length and anchor point positions is crucial.

Suspension

A basic fall arrest system comprises of a harness, a lanyard and a secure anchor point that will carry the weight of the falling worker and also the force of the arrest. Whether you fall head-first or feet-first, once the fall system arrests the fall, you will likely be in a standing position, suspended in the air with the harness straps restricting the blood flow from your legs to your heart. When the blood pools in your feet and legs, suspension trauma sets in.

The rescue

The fact that the fall arrest gear stopped your fall does not end the risk. Instead, this is the most dangerous part for the following reasons:

  • If self-rescue is impossible, you can lose consciousness within three to five minutes.
  • Rescuers must bring you to safety as soon as possible.
  • If you are unconscious, the rescue workers must keep your body in a kneeling position, and then allow 30 to 40 minutes to move you to a sitting position and then supine position gradually.
  • This is because of your heart's inability to handle the sudden rush of blood if rescuers place you in a horizontal, lying-down position immediately after the rescue.

Therefore, even after the fall arrest system saved your life, the actions of the rescuers can cause your death.

Workers' compensation

If a fall arrest system saved you from falling to your death, suspension trauma could have caused long-term health problems as the result of interrupted blood flow. The Minnesota workers' compensation insurance program will likely cover your medical expenses and lost wages, along with additional benefits if your injuries caused a disability. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can be a valuable asset in the navigation of the benefits claims process.

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