Report by George Flagler, Dr. Sandra Dorman, and Dr. Anil Adisesh
Objective. Workers who are working-at-heights, in a harness, are susceptible to suspension after a fall-arrest; causing concerns about so called: “suspension trauma.” The purpose of this project was threefold: i) to consult with Working at Heights (WAH) training providers in Ontario to compare their training with regard to harness suspension management; ii) to assess whether harness suspension events were occurring within the industrial sector; and iii) to ask about harness equipment in regards to prevention of suspension syncope and compliance by workers.
Methods. Review of current literature databases, pertaining to harness suspension, was conducted along with consultation of 190 WAH training providers across Ontario via email, phone, or both.
Results. Despite clear agreement in the literature on best practice for the management and treatment of harness suspension, inconsistencies persist among WAH training providers with regards to content and recommendations surrounding management. No documented, confirmed cases of the so called “suspension trauma,” in the industrial sector, were confirmed; either through literature review or consultation with WAH training providers. Harness equipment, in particular design and fit, is considered a factor in worker compliance.
Conclusions. Although no confirmed industrial cases of ‘suspension trauma’ have been reported, the risk of ‘suspension trauma’ is a concern for workers and working at height trainers. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development should adopt and communicate clear guidelines on the management of harness suspension, including the proper positioning of the rescued worker after fall. Further research is merited for consideration of the impact of harness design and fit on worker compliance, as well as the impact of anthropometrics on proper harness fit.