There will always be risks involved when working at height. Correct training, PPE equipment, and a Fall Protection Plan can help reduce these risks, but it is also important not to forget about the dangers involved with falling objects such as tools or other unattached equipment.
There are many things that are not secure and can fall; tools are the main factor to consider but there are also bolts and other construction materials that add to the risk. The slightest movement can send a hammer spiralling down below which can have devastating consequences. Most importantly there is the potential to harm or fatally injure other workers or members of the public, but secondly there is other damage that can be caused to structures, property, and other equipment.
Eliminating the Hazards Posed by Falling Objects
Some countries have specific regulations to ensure employers are responsible for preventing falling objects, and where they must manage the risks of injury or fatality in all situations. The UK Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that:
- (1) Every employer shall, where necessary to prevent injury to any person, take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the fall of any material or object.
(2) Where it is not reasonably practicable to comply with the requirements of paragraph (1), every employer shall take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent any person being struck by any falling material or object which is liable to cause personal injury.
(3) Every employer shall ensure that no material or object is thrown or tipped from height in circumstances where it is liable to cause injury to any person.
(4) Every employer shall ensure that materials and objects are stored in such a way as to prevent risk to any person arising from the collapse, overturning or unintended movement of such materials or objects.
It is important to remember that an item such as a claw hammer which weights around 2 kg, will hit the ground with an impact like that of a concrete mixer. A bolt weighing 220g would have the same effect as getting hit by a 50kg bag of cement.
Even those wearing a hard hat in the above situations would simply not be protected from such an impact, therefore it is so important that preventative measures are taken to account for loose items and tools at a work site where operatives are working at height.
Ensure you have a Fall Protection Plan
As important as PPE such as hard hats and protective steel toe cap boots are – neither will suffice if an object falls from a significant height. Prevention is the best tool when dealing with the risks of objects falling from height.
A Fall Protection Plan accounts for these risks and identifies all the hazards there are on a site and what measures must be taken to prevent workers and the public, both on the ground and at all other levels at height. A complete Fall Protection Plan will note how workers will prevent tools from falling, as well as determining if they were to fall, are there any other things that can be done to stop falling objects from striking someone or the surrounding area.
Implement Preventative Safety Measures
Measures must be put in place where possible to prevent objects from falling. This can be done through correct training of operatives to ensure they know the risks and understands the importance of following the safety measures in place. One way this can be done is to emphasise the importance of tidying up on site and reduce the number of loose objects that are potential hazards, a debris chute can be used to maintain good housekeeping. Construction materials such as tools should be stored away from the edge; and where this is not possible, items should be secured to the structure or if they aren’t too heavy, to the worker using them or in a secure tool bag.
Toeboards and safety nets can be installed to catch any loose objects should they fall, and correctly marking out an exclusion zone below the worksite can stop people from entering an area where they could be struck by falling objects. These methods should be viewed as a last resort as objects rarely fall directly downwards.
It is important to address Fall Protection for objects in addition to people before an incident occurs to help keep employees, workers and the public safe where work must be completed at height.
This blog forms part of a series ‘From Zero to Safety’, Heightsafe have teamed up with one of our partners XS Platforms and will continue to provide valuable content to ensure companies are providing the safest environment for their workers.
Do You Require a Fall Protection Solution?
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