Objective: This study investigated the effect of body size and shape and harness fit on suspension tolerance time. Background: Fall victims may develop suspension trauma, a potentially fatal reduction of return blood flow from legs to the heart and brain, after a successfully arrested fall if they are not rescued quickly or the harness does not fit them well. Method: For this study, 20 men and 17 women with construction experience were suspended from the dorsal D-ring of a full-body fall-arrest harness. Their suspension tolerance time, physical characteristics, and harness fit levels were assessed. Results: Body characteristics (i.e., weight, stature, upper- and lower-torso depths) were associated with decreased suspension tolerance time (r = -.36 ~ -.45, p = .03). In addition, harness fit affected suspension tolerance time; workers with a torso angle of suspension greater than 35°, a thigh strap angle greater than 50°, or a poorly fitting harness size had shorter suspension tolerance time (mean differences = 14, 11, and 9.8 min, respectively, p = .05). Conclusion: Body size and harness fit were predictors of suspension tolerance time. Selecting well-fit harnesses and establishing a 9-min rescue plan are suggested to ensure that no more than 5% of workers would experience suspension trauma. Applications: The study provides a basis for harness designers, standards writers, and manufacturers to improve harness configurations and testing requirements for better worker protection against suspension trauma.
Hongwei Hsiao, PhD, Chief, Protective Technology Branch, Division of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1095 Willowdale Rd., Morgantown, WV 26505