Suspension trauma is one particular scenario, that of someone being suspended. This might be inside a large vessel, their equipment has failed, or there is a medical emergency. But this subject also covers working height. The actual condition itself is known as the reflow syndrome, that is the medical term. With the suspension, the person, let us take, for example, is unconscious. And as they are unconscious, their heart rate slows down. As the heart slows down, it finds it difficult to pull the from your legs, and the reflow syndrome is when blood pools in your legs. It actually becomes toxic. It is de-oxygenated. It is carrying impurities. The danger now is, if we now release this person, how do we manage what potentially is a toxic shock?
If we just then put them straight on the ground, that will flood back into the body, the heart can stop, and even kidney failure. So how we manage someone and rescue someone with suspension trauma or the reflow syndrome, is very critical. As soon as we rescue them, we put them straight into the recovery position. What the recovery position does, it allows the blood to flow back to the brain to keep them alive, but it is a small amount. The leg being over helps to cut off the femoral artery in the leg. We leave in that position for as long as we can, or until the emergency services arrive. But it is very important you tell, particularly the ambulance service, that this person is suffering from the reflow syndrome. And then they are able to treat accordingly.
How can we stop it up in the first place? Well one, make sure you have got proper equipment. Make sure you have got people who are fit and well to do the job. But if they did occur, there are additional equipment out there that we can use, particularly creating what we call leg loops. If we can raise those legs or raise those knees, we can reduce the risk of the reflow syndrome. If somebody is awake and their equipment fails, even a rope ladder lowered down where they can put their feet in and raise those legs will reduce those chances of this occurring. Now, there is a document produced by the Health and Safety Executive on this subject alone. So if you need further information, then download it and review it.
More information can be found on our working at height course.