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Friday, November 29, 2019

How to avoid falling objects when working at heights

You may have great fall protection measures in place to keep employees safe when working at height, but what about their co-workers below? Dropped tools and other falling objects are a major hazard – and one that isn’t always fully addressed.

The following notes will give a clear summary of best practice in securing tools, avoiding tool drops and increasing safety in your workplace.

The problem:

Technicians in the metal working and energy sectors are especially likely to find themselves operating at heights. Think, for instance, of the long climbs involved in maintaining a wind turbine or a tall building. Even a small item of equipment dropped from such a position can seriously injure anyone hit by it. In the United States alone, more than 50,000 people each year suffer injuries due to falling objects, according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

What the law says:

Employers are obliged under US law to train and inform workers – both regular and temporary – on workplace hazards. They are also required to prevent accidental drops of equipment. If this isn’t possible, they are allowed instead to secure a safety zone below those working at height and keep it clear of personnel. Importantly, that approach is only to be used as a last resort. The UK and other countries have similar legislation.
There is a conflict between traditional practice and legal requirements. It’s quite common to see an area closed off by barriers so people can’t walk beneath their workmates and be struck by falling items. The law’s primary objective, by contrast, is that measures should be taken to stop those drops from happening in the first place.

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