Suspension Trauma in Construction

Suspension trauma, also known as ‘harness hang syndrome’, is a serious condition which can occur when a worker is suspended in a fall arrest harness for an extended period.

It is most common in construction work, where workers frequently work at heights and are required to wear fall arrest harnesses. 

Causes of suspension trauma 

Suspension trauma is caused by the pooling of blood in the legs and feet when a person is suspended in a harness. This pooling of blood reduces blood flow to the brain and other vital organs, which can lead to several health problems, including: 

  • Dizziness 
  • light-headedness 
  • nausea 
  • vomiting 
  • headache 
  • sweating 
  • muscle weakness 
  • loss of consciousness 
  • heart attack 
  • stroke 


Factors which increase the risk of suspension injury trauma 

  • The amount of time spent suspended in a harness: The longer a person is suspended, the greater the risk of suspension injury trauma. 
  • The individual’s health status: People with certain health conditions, such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and diabetes, are at increased risk. 
  • The environmental conditions: Hot and humid environments can increase the risk of suspension trauma by causing dehydration and heat exhaustion. 
  • The type of fall arrest harness: Some fall arrest harnesses are more likely to cause suspension trauma than others. 


How to prevent suspension injury trauma 

  • Minimise the amount of time spent suspended in a harness: If possible, avoid tasks that require you to be suspended in a harness for extended periods of time. 
  • Take breaks: If you must be suspended in a harness, take breaks every 15-20 minutes to stand up and move around. 
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. 
  • Use a comfortable fall arrest harness: Choose a fall arrest harness that fits correctly and is comfortable to wear. 


Treatment for suspension injury trauma 

If someone experiences suspension trauma, it is important to get them to a safe place and lay them down with their legs elevated. If the person is unconscious, call emergency services immediately. 

Once the person is in a safe position, you can begin to monitor their vital signs and provide first aid. If the person is conscious, you can give them fluids and help them to cool down. If the person is unconscious, you can perform CPR until help arrives. 

There are also several things that workers can do to prevent suspension trauma, such as minimising the amount of time spent suspended in a harness, taking breaks, and staying hydrated. Employers also have a responsibility to protect their workers from suspension trauma by providing them with the proper safety training and equipment. 

The iProtectU health and safety software provides: 

  • An inspection and Audit App which allows for safety inspection of the workplace and associated report 
  • eLearning on a wide range of EHS topics, covering fall arrest equipment where applicable 
  • Scheduling functionality for managers to send eLearning, risk assessments and documents out to all staff via the software with tracks completion and compliance 
  • Risk assessment templates covering working at height 
  • Management system to document control the policy on working at height 
  • Method Statement module for the creation of various working instructions 
  • Legal register that provides legislation guidance on working at height 
  • Incident investigation module that tracks incidents involving falls both with an app and via desktop 
  • Hazard observation app where staff can report and record any concerns regarding working at height to the organisation 
  • Asset management App ensuring assets are recorded in the software 




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