Overlooked Fall Hazards

You have gathered all the materials and tools for your work. Attached your inspected harness and lanyard to a roof anchorage point and you are ready to get to work. But, one misstep and you are dangling in a harness, a pot­­entially really dangerous situation. Nevertheless, your PPE has worked and kept the situation under control.

This is the best case scenario after a fall from height.

Let us check out different scenario’s that can play out if the situation is not well estimated, so called overlooked fall hazards. An effective and thorough fall protection plan can prevent some overlooked fall hazards from happening. Let us dive in and describe these hazards.

Swing Falls

When tethered to an anchor, after a worker has fallen, the lanyard will always move in the direction of the anchor. When a lanyards is too long, or an anchor placed too far away, a worker will literally swing while suspended in the air. As a result, the worker can slam to a concrete wall, go through a window or even hit the ground below. There are multiple ways to prevent swing falls from happening. Check out this dedicated blog on swing falls to learn more and download this toolbox to educate others.

Harness Suspension Trauma (HST)

Harness suspension Trauma is another often overlooked fall hazard. After a misstep, slip or trip the worker falls over the edge of a roof. When properly attached, the fall is arrested by a person’s personal protective equipment but the worker has been exposed to large gravity forces.

This is the moment when Harness Suspension kicks in. Besides the fall stop, or even collision with a wall, which may or may not have knocked the worked unconscious, hanging in an upright position leaves the legs mostly motionless dangling in the air. This generates pressure on the blood vessels in the groin and impedes blood flowing back to a person’s brains and the vital organs in their torso. Left long enough in this position, workers will faint and eventually die of hypoxemia. This overlooked fall hazard is known as Harness Suspension Trauma (HST) and is often debated by experts and workers who have experienced a situation which led to temporary of permanent damage.

Leg straps and a swift rescue plan can protect the worker from worse. There is no time to lose whenever a worker is hanging suspended in a harness. A rescue plan can significantly decrease response time. Small things as working in duos, knowing who to call in an emergency or a chain of command can save lives.

Read more about harness suspension trauma? Check out our blog.

Medical attention after a fall

Every worker who is rescued after a fall needs medical attention. There are a number of cases that have surfaced that mention workers that have died after a rescue from a fall. These workers have been rescued, laid on a stretcher and have died minutes or hours later. The medical analysis is a complex one for these situations, with possible causes such as organ failure, muscle breakdown or blood becoming toxic and flowing to the brains. After a rescue, the emergency is far from over, a visit to a hospital is definitely needed and required.

Slips, trips and falls

Falls do not always have to be from major heights. Falls on the same levels or from minor heights can also be dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.

These slips and trips happen for a number of reasons. Here are a couple of tips to prevent these slips, trips and falls:

  • Check walkways for uneven surfaces
  • Check if anchor points are logically positioned. For example, not nearby walkways or near gutters.
  • Remove obstructions and keep working surfaces and walkways clear at all times.
  • Keep workplaces clean. (Re)instate a cleaning regime and support and train workers into a more aware attitude towards cleaning working surfaces.
  • Check roof/floor maintenance. Are roofs well maintained and are the environmental factors an issue?

Another major point to prevent slips, trips and falls is to check the weather. There are different situations thinkable. One of those situations are wintry conditions that can be a source of additional slip, trip and fall hazards. We wrote a blog about what to do when working at height during the cold.

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