Objects falling from high pose real danger to workers below.
By Alexandra Walsh
Falling or flying objects on a worksite can expose workers to injuries ranging from cuts and abrasions all the way to concussions or blindness.
Working beneath scaffolds or other areas where overhead work is being performed puts workers at risk from falling objects. Flying objects become a concern when workers are using power tools or performing tasks that involve pushing, pulling, or prying.
A tool weighing only 8 pounds falling from a height of 200 feet will travel at a speed of nearly 80 miles an hour and can have an impact force of 5540 pounds when it impacts the ground. With this kind of forceful impact, safety nets and drop zones are of little benefit when an object with this kind of mass and speed makes a direct impact on or deflects off another object.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 42,400 “struck by falling object” OSHA recordable incidents every year in the United States. That’s nearly 116 injuries caused by falling objects every day or one injury caused by a dropped object every 10 minutes.
And that only accounts for OSHA recordable incidents; it doesn’t consider accidents from fallen objects that go unreported.
As falling objects continue to be one of the top five causes of injury, that means it should be top of mind and a priority when it comes to protecting your worksite. A dropped wrench, hammer, or even a walkie-talkie can be extremely damaging to workers. It can be even worse with heavier tools.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
The first step in preventing falling objects is to conduct a risk assessment of the workplace. This includes identifying potential hazards and assessing the risk of injury or damage.
By conducting a risk assessment, you can identify ahead of time areas where falling objects may occur, and take steps to eliminate or reduce the risk. This could involve redesigning work processes, providing additional training, or adding new safety measures.
Additionally, it’s important to review the risk assessment periodically to ensure any new hazards or risks are identified and addressed.
Use Appropriate PPE
Employees should wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as hard hats and safety glasses to further protect themselves from falling objects. Hard hats are designed to protect the head and neck from impact, while safety glasses can protect the eyes from flying debris.
As falling objects continue to be one of the top five causes of injury, that means it should be top of mind and a priority when it comes to protecting your worksite.
Wearing PPE is a simple but effective way to reduce the risk of injury from falling objects. It’s also important to inspect and make sure that the PPE is in good condition and fits properly as well as providing the appropriate type of PPE for the specific task.
Secure Materials and Equipment
Materials and equipment should be stored, transported, and handled in a secure manner to prevent them from falling. This is done by using proper storage methods such as racks and shelves and using tie-downs, straps, and netting to secure loads during transport. Properly securing materials and equipment is essential to keep them from falling and causing injury or damage.
Use Warning Signs and Barriers
In order to alert employees to potential hazards and to keep them away from areas where falling objects may occur, warning signs and barriers should be used. Barriers can be constructed to physically block employees from entering hazardous areas while warning signs can be posted to notify them of any potential danger.
Train Employees on Safe Work Practices
It’s also vital that employees are trained in how to properly store, transport, and handle materials and equipment. They should be instructed about safe work practices such as proper lifting techniques, the proper use of PPE, and how to handle and store job-related materials and equipment. This type of training will help to reduce the risk of falling objects and increase workers’ awareness of potential hazards.
It’s important that the training is provided on a regular basis to ensure that employees are constantly reminded of safe work practices. It goes without saying to see to it that new employees are trained properly.
Inspect Equipment and Tools Regularly
It’s also important that equipment and tools be in good working order and that there are no defects that could cause them to fail. To be sure of that, equipment and tools need to be inspected constantly. This means inspecting ropes, cables, and harnesses for signs of wear or damage.
Regular, ongoing inspection of equipment and tools is important to prevent equipment failure and reduce the risk of falling objects.
Use Proper Fall Protection
Employees working up high must use proper fall protection such as harnesses and safety lines to prevent them from falling and being injured. These devices are designed to arrest a fall and keep the employee from hitting the ground.
It’s important to ensure that the fall protection equipment is appropriate for the task, is in good working condition, and that employees are trained in how to properly use it.
Clean and Maintain the Workplace
A clean and well-maintained workplace is less likely to have falling object hazards.
Regular cleaning and maintenance can help to identify potential hazards and keep them from becoming a problem. This includes keeping walkways and pathways clear of obstacles, assuring that materials and equipment are properly stored, and inspecting equipment and tools regularly.
By keeping the workplace clean and well maintained, you can reduce the risk of falling objects and create a safer working environment.
Conduct a Safety Program
A safety program that includes regular safety meetings and training as well as regular inspections and audits can help to reduce the risk of falling objects and promote a culture of safety in the workplace.
Safety programs can help workers to identify and address present and potential hazards as well as ensure that they are aware of the risks and know how to safely perform their jobs.
Have an Emergency Plan
A prepared emergency plan can help to minimize the risk of injury in case of an accident. This includes having emergency contact information readily available and verifying that employees know what to do in case of an emergency.
It’s important to regularly review and update the emergency plan to safeguard that it is effective and that employees are familiar with it. In the event of an emergency, having a plan already in place can help to minimize the risk of injury and confirm that employees know how to respond safely when they need to.
Don’t forget to continuously assess and evaluate your standard operating procedures to confirm that you are taking the necessary steps to minimize the risk of falling objects and keeping your workplace safe.
Accidents from falling objects may range among the most frequent incidents every year, but having a plan to prevent them from occurring and discussing such accidents frequently with your team can reduce the risk of your company becoming another statistic.