There are certain jobs and careers that require workers to be suspended by harness and pulleys, such as: construction, landscaping, warehousing, painters, outdoor cable installers, electricians, and so forth. The first thing most of us think about when it comes to injuries to workers who work at a significant height is the injuries sustained from a fall – but few of us likely think of the direct damage that being held up in the air by a harness. Being suspended in the air for more than 10 minute can lead to injuries – catastrophic injuries, in fact, that will affect you for the rest of your life. The scientific facts behind why such a lifesaving bit of safety gear (the harness) can cause such irreparable damage are truly astounding.
How can being suspended in a harness hurt you?
When a worker falls and is left hanging by their harness, this creates a dangerous situation for the body. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the danger arises due to the pressure applied to the backs of the legs where the harness cuts off circulation. “While arteries near the fronts of the legs continue pumping blood, the harness straps act like tourniquets on the veins in the backs of the legs and prevent used (deoxygenated) blood returning to the heart. If circulation is impeded enough, the heart rate will abruptly slow and reduce oxygen to the brain.”
You must know that the circulatory system is what ensures that your blood is oxygenated; once the oxygen is used up, the blood is returned to the heart after being filtered through the liver. If any part of this process is interrupted, it is extremely dangerous. What this means is that if you are suspended for too long, while you can still breathe and your heart can receive oxygen to give to the blood, the used blood (the blood that is without oxygen and containing toxins) that is attempting to return to the heart is stopped due to the harness straps.
If the worker is not given suspension safety straps or other protective measures, this situation can escalate to a possibly fatal one in as little as ten minutes of being suspended. Even if the worker survives, it is very likely that they will suffer from a life-long catastrophic injury.
What catastrophic injuries are caused by suspension trauma?
When the used blood cannot return to the heart because it is trapped in your lower extremities, it means that heart cannot expand and fill with blood (cardiac preload). When this occurs, your brain and other organs cannot receive the blood that they require to function. As you can imagine, this can lead to all sorts of severe and life-altering injuries. Some of these injuries and conditions include:
- Cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping. If blood cannot return to the heart, then the heart will cease to pump, as the organ cannot expand with used blood and transfer new, oxygenated blood. A cardiac arrest, if survived, can leave the victim with a weakened heart, chronic heart failure, pericarditis,
- Stroke. When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or decreased, the result is a stroke. Strokes can cause life-long brain damage, with symptoms such as difficulty controlling and moving the left or right side of your body, speech and language disorders, paralysis, and loss of other physical and cognitive functions.
- Anoxic brain injury. When the brain ceases to receive oxygenated blood, it will cause the brain to malfunction, causing such long term complications such as brain damage and cell death.
- Kidney and liver Organs such as your kidneys and liver require blood to function, just like most everything in your body. As the cells of your organs begin to die because of the lack of blood, it can lead to kidney or liver failure. These can cause damage to your heart, brain, central nervous system, and immune system; weakened bones, pregnancy complications, bleeding disorders, infections, kidney or liver disease, and cerebral edema (when too much fluid builds up around the brain, leading to such symptoms such as seizures).
- Rescue death. Rescue death is a unique and sometimes tragic effect of rescuing someone from prolonged suspension trauma. Because the toxin filled blood has been building up in the lower extremities, when the body is lowered, and the tourniquet-like grip of the harness is removed, the excess amount of used blood rushes to the heart, which can cause heart failure, possibly leading to death.
The initial symptoms of suspension trauma include nausea, dizziness, sweating, confusion, loss of vision, buzzing, and vertigo. It is crucial that if someone becomes suspended by their harness, that they are assisted immediately before irreversible damage can be done.
How can a Nashville workers’ compensation lawyer help me after a suspension injury?
Suspension trauma accidents often happen on job sites where workers are required to use harnesses, as the fall from such a height could be fatal. If your employer provides you with poor equipment such as outdated harnesses, or doesn’t supply you with suspension trauma preventative equipment like suspension trauma relief straps, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer for not providing a safe working environment.
More likely, though, is your success in filing a claim for workers’ compensation. These claims cover your medical expenses (all of them) as well as provide two-thirds of your weekly salary for as long as you are unable to work. If you sustain permanent injury, you should be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Tennessee’ workers’ comp program also provides compensation for scarring and disfigurement. So, if a worker ends up losing a leg because of suspension trauma, he or she should be entitled to additional money. In the event a worker dies from the injuries, the program also provides death benefits.
A Nashville workers’ compensation lawyer can ensure that the likely long-term injuries and complications that you sustain from suspension trauma is not overlooked. A significant number of workers’ compensation claims are denied each year, and other employees may have their benefits cut off before they should be. Working with one of our attorneys from the start of the process can give you peace of mind.
Not all workplace accidents leave you with life-long trauma and conditions, but suspension trauma can. The catastrophic injuries you can suffer from this situation can leave you unable to enjoy daily activities, to work, and to simply live without chronic pain or discomfort. Suspension trauma can even lead to a fatal outcome. Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can help you. We’ll fight for you every step of the way, and make sure that you are our priority. To schedule a free initial consultation, call 615-425-2500, or fill out our contact form. You do not need to suffer more than you must simply because you were trying to do your job. We proudly serve our community through our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville.