Working at Height: Dropped Objects
Anytime work is done at height there are a wide variety of safety issues that need to be addressed. It’s something that according to the US Burearu of Labor Statistics, Falls and Struck by Object are the second and third leading cause of death in the workplace, behind only highway collisions.
Keeping the worker protected with safety rails, lifts, or harnesses has been well understood for some time, even if improvement is still needed, but dropped objects and tools is an area where many still lack the necessary understanding, processes, and PPE to operate safely. This chart shows the danger of dropped objects and their potential consequences.
There are six steps necessary to minimize the risks when it comes to dropped objects:
1. IDENTIFY THE HAZARDS
The first step is realizing you have a problem. Walk through the facility and identify what areas, jobs, and specific tasks have the potential for dropped objects. Make sure that you document those areas so that a comprehensive list can be made, checked, and trained off of.
2. ASSESS HAZARDS AND ASSOCIATED RISKS
Now that you know where to look, determine what the hazards are and what threats they cause. While working on a ladder and working on the roof both have the potential for dropped objects, working on the roof obviously presents a greater hazard and risk. This chart showcases how much of an area is at risk when dropping an 8.3 lb wrench.
3. ELIMINATE THE HAZARD
Following OSHA’s Three Lines of Defense, the first two steps is to eliminate the hazard if possible, or to use administrative controls to remove the cause of the hazard. In the instance of dropped objects, an engineered solution could be providing a man lift with an enclosed basket, resulting in tools being caught instead of falling to the floor below. An administrative control would be to make it policy never to walk near employees working at height, so if PPE does fail then no one will be below to be injured.
4. SUBSTITUTE FOR SAFETY
When completely eliminating the hazard is not possible, and when working from height a true elimination can be difficult, the next step is to make sure that all non-compliant tools are out of service, and proper tools are provided. For dropped object, this means that all tools that go up should have professional attachment point design and lanyards to attach them to a solid object. Smaller objects can typically be attached to the employees tool belt, but heavy objects should be attached to the lift or another point so that if dropped they do not bring the worker down with them.
5. CONTROL THE WORK
This means that before an employee goes up, both they and the employees in the affected areas should be properly trained and have clear guidelines on what to do.
6. MONITOR FOR COMPLIANCE
Just because employees have been trained once doesn’t mean that they’ll remember it forever. Go out and observe the work being done when possible to ensure that the established processes are being followed. This allows you to know when discrepancies occur and to see if there are any new hazards that have emerged or if previously unnoticed hazards are present.
Vigilance is key when working at height, because mistakes made at height have consequences far worse than mistakes made on the ground. Martin Safety is proud to help companies operate better when it comes to their safety programs. Learn more about Martin Safety, or contact us to have an expert come to your facility and help you with keeping your employees safe from dropped objects.
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