Health & Safety reps from the Gloucester & North Wilts branch of the CWU (covering BT) attended the Health & Safety conference organised by Swindon TUC on February 4th. In the discussion they drew to our attention that the branch has launched a petition on the Downing Street website. It reads:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to amend The Work at Height Regulations 2005 to make it law for explanatory labels to be permanently fixed to all fall arrest lanyards and safety harnesses, so rescuers understand the implications of “Suspension Trauma”.”
They explain that:
“It is possible that an otherwise fit person, saved from falling by a lanyard fall arrest system, can suffer from suspension trauma within 10 – 30 minutes while awaiting rescue. Blood can pool in the legs causing the person to slip in to unconsciousness. Most would be rescuers are not trained in suspension trauma and their normal treatment for someone who has fainted could lead to the patient’s rapid death. Labels should be permanently affixed to all safety harnesses and lanyards explaining that the patient should be treated for a “Crush injury” to prevent re-flow. They must be kept in a sitting position for at least half an hour to avoid a heart attack or severe kidney damage. This simple label could save lives, please sign this petition.”
BT engineers, of course, have to climb polls to work on lines, often working on their own.
Les Glover who originated the petition explains why.
“Suspension trauma really crept into my life in a slow unassuming way. Quite a few years ago we were trained on the use of a new harness at work to replace our old faithful safety belt that we had grown used to when climbing telephone poles.
The new harness was a pain, buckle at the chest, buckle at the waist and buckles on each thigh, then this damn lanyard connected to a ‘D’ ring on the chest. The lanyard was always getting in the way but we had to use it. The training had a very quick 2 minutes on what we had to do if we fell from the pole. The lanyard would break then completely arrest the fall to leave us suspended.
Just get back on to the pole steps we were told, if you cannot, wriggle your toes or keep your legs moving. We treated it as a bit of a joke to be truthful. the seriousness was never put across to us, I would hate to say by design so it must of been by ignorance. After that we just got on and used the new harness and lanyard (well most of us anyway).
A year or so later I heard a news item on the radio during the night when I had trouble sleeping, it concerned some rescue training where someone in a harness was in the process of helping train others to rescue him. He was uninjured and fit but he slipped in to unconsciousness. At the time I thought “Must bring this up at work” but by the time morning came I had slept for a few hours and the memory as gone.
Gone for about 3 years until I was attending a CWU safety reps course at our own union training school, Alvescott. We had just had a guest speaker, a nice guy but not really the best of speakers, he had stepped in at the last moment when the first choice was called away.
After he had left we were having an informal discussion about hazards when the memory of that radio news item came to me so I mentioned it. “Suspension Trauma” someone said and then proceeded to tell us a little more about it and how his branch had been trying to raise the issue with BT for sometime. That prompted me to go to the library after our evening meal and do a bit of googleing, what I learned that night frightened me, the fact that it was so little understood and so deadly when mishandled. Why weren’t we told more about it at work? Why were emergency services relatively ignorant of it.
I decided that this was something I could and should do something about. I had spent quite a time reading the Work at height regulation 2005 and thought that an amendment so an information tag to be fitted to harnesses and lanyards would be a good but simple way of alerting rescuers that special treatment would be required. Hence the birth of the petition.Later I made enquiries with the Great Western Ambulance service and eventually got to talk to one of their trainers, responsible for the training of paramedics, as a result they have now taken suspension trauma into their syllabus.
Change is slow but as long as we make changes for the good it will help those who normally take safety regimes as being over the top, after all when it comes to safety short cuts, the first person you are cheating is yourself.”
Please spend a little time to sign the petition which can be found at:
You can read a more detailed explanation of Suspension Trauma at: