Learning about Falling Objects Safety
When working on construction sites or other places with high heights, one of the most dangerous situations is when someone drops something, or an item is accidently knocked off an edge. These items can get up a lot of speed, which can be devastating to anyone in the area below. For this reason, falling objects safety must always be taken extremely seriously.
Many companies make the mistake of only focusing on the actions of the people on the ground. Having them wear hard hats when below a work area, for example. While this is important, it is not nearly enough. Another common mistake is assuming that the only people who are at risk are those who are directly under the worksite.
The reality is, however, that a falling object that hits something on the way down can be sent flying in any direction, exposing people in the surrounding area to significant danger. Sadly, this is what happened at a New Jersey construction site. A worker was 50 stories up on a building when he accidently dropped his tape measure.
It fell down, striking another piece of equipment before it hit a worker who was talking to someone in a truck some distance away. The individual was taken to the hospital, where he died from the injuries. You can read more about this sad story HERE. While terribly unfortunate, this event can show that if something as simple as a tape measure can become deadly when it is falling, imagine the dangers of objects like hammers or bricks or other large items.
With this in mind, consider implementing the following five strategies to help improve the falling objects safety for your company. Many of these things can help make immediate improvements that may actually save someone’s life.
5 Ways to Protect your Employees from Falling Objects
1. Installing safety Netting
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your falling objects safety is to have netting installed. Purchasing safety netting is quite inexpensive, and can help to catch virtually any object that would get dropped from heights. The netting can be installed several floors below where the work is going, so that it will be able to easily catch any item.
It is important to keep in mind that in most cases this netting is not designed to catch heavy items like humans, so it is not a replacement for a harness system. Since the netting will give way slightly when an item is dropped, however, it will easily catch things like hammers, tape measures and other tools.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when going this route is that you need the netting to be tightly woven so things won’t slip through it. You can typically have netting that has squares that are under an inch around, which should catch most types of things that can be dangerous. If the construction site mentioned in the deadly New Jersey accident above would have had this type of netting in place, the construction worker would still be alive today.
2. Identify Risk Areas
While most people know that they should be wearing hard hats and other equipment while on the ground directly under a work area, they often get careless once they get more than a couple dozen feet away from the area.
As was shown in the accident referenced, however, the hazard area is actually significantly larger than most people would expect. One way to remind construction workers on the ground just how large an area is where they need to be wearing their protection gear is to use floor marking tape.
This type of tape is often used at an indoor facility, but you can get floor marking tape (which can be purchased here) that will stick perfectly to concrete or other types of ground. Placing a boarder around a work area can be an excellent visual reminder that people within that area need to make sure they are always wearing a hard hat and watching for falling objects.
3. Harnessed Tools
As is usually the case, preventing items from falling is the best way to improve your falling objects safety. To do this, consider installing a harness system for the tools themselves. Most construction sites have a harness system (similar to this) in place already, which is designed to catch workers in the event that they fall.
You can get options that will clip onto an existing harness and then attach to each tool that is being used with a cord. These harnesses can even have extendable cords so that you will have plenty of maneuverability with the tools.
Some people find these types of systems to be difficult to work with at first, but with a little time it becomes second nature. Of course, even if it were slightly more difficult, that burden would be well worth it because of the fact that it will prevent virtually all accidents from people dropping tools, which is surprisingly common.
4. Only bring Necessary Tools
Another effective way to minimize the risk of items getting dropped from heights is to encourage people to only bring out the tool or tools that they are actually going to use immediately. Many people take entire tool boxes, or tool belts filled with items that they won’t be needing, and each of these things has the potential to be dropped.
If everyone limits the number of items that they have out in an area where they could be dropped, the number of incidents would drop dramatically. Even leaving items that you will need, but not for quite a while, is a good idea. This may require a little bit of extra time to complete a job, but it will improve your overall falling objects safety for the construction site, which is extremely important.
5. Keeping Edges Clear
One of the biggest causes of items falling from heights is that they are kept on a ledge or other area where they can accidently be bumped or kicked off. While these areas may seem like a convenient spot to keep things that aren’t in use, it is actually a recipe for disaster.
Having a designated area for any tools or other equipment that is not in use will help ensure that these types of accidents don’t happen. Each work area, for example, could have a bin or other secured spot to place items while not in use. This would take some getting used to for the employees, but it would create a much safer work environment.
This would also help to ensure tools don’t get lost or misplaced, which is very helpful for any type of construction site.
Falling Objects and Safety First
Remember, while some of these tips will require some minor inconveniences, you always need to first consider how they will improve safety. The fact that falling objects can become deadly so quickly means that every precaution you can take is well worth the extra time or effort that people have to put in each day.
In most cases, however, the difficulty that people experience from these types of policy changes will only be temporary. As people get used to them, they will find that they are able to complete the job quickly and without any major problems. In addition, everyone working up at heights as well as those on the ground will be able to work more confidently that they are in a safe workplace.
- Struck by Accidents in Construction
- Lead Hazards in Construction
- The Pyramid Method to Addressing the Hazard of Falling Objects in the Workplace
- 10 Construction Safety Facts that May Surprise You
- OSHA and ANSI Z359 – Fall Protection Standard