Whether you work in manufacturing or construction, you can be at risk from falling objects. Dropped objects have been a noted issue as far back as 1903 when the New York Times published an article on dropping objects from bridge construction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2015 there were 52,260 OSHA recordable incidents where a worker was struck by a falling object or equipment, which equates to 143 workers a day, 7 days a week.
With such sobering statistics, it comes down to the simple question, how do we prevent falling objects? Most companies have implemented a fall protection program for team members, however, have overlooked a drop prevention program for tools and equipment. When looking at the fall protection program, also look to include tools and equipment. It is considerably easier than creating a new program for drop prevention.
Tethers - Fall Prevention for Tools
- When choosing a tether, pay close attention to attachment points. If it is to attach to your wrist (as some do), ensure that it doesn't restrict the use of the tool or place your wrist at an awkward angle that could create an ergonomics issue. Also, what happens if you drop the tool? Will the weight and angle of the tool possibly pull you off balance and expose you to a fall? Example: working from a ladder or unprotected edge.
- Tool tethers have load ratings, know the weight of your tool and the capacity of your tether.
- There are many styles of tethers to attach to tools for drop prevention. Ensure the one you choose works with the tool and doesn't work ‘against’ the tool or your use. Never modify the tool to accept the tether. The method of using D-rings, nonconductive tape, cinch attachments and Quick Spin Adaptors can be added to small hand tools without modification of the tool when there are no tether attachment points.
- Any tool over 5 lbs. should not be attached to you. These tools should be attached to a fixed structure approved by supervision and/or the safety department.
- When picking a tool tether be brand specific. Often brand models are engineered to work together, as with personal fall protection. Avoid mixing and matching tool tether systems from different companies and different models.
- Lastly, follow the directions that are included with your tool tether.
The third leading cause of death in the workplace is contact with objects and equipment. A large percentage of these fatalities are caused by being struck with falling objects.
As a reminder, OSHA requirements when working in an environment where there is a risk or being hit by a falling object, include:
- Secure tools and materials to prevent them from falling
- Barricade hazardous areas and post warning signage
- Use toe boards and screens if necessary on walkways and/or scaffolding
- Use platforms, rated canopies/nets to catch or deflect materials
Wachs’ STA (Safety Task Assessment) is used to ensure that as a Team, we proactively analyze the work to be done, to include falling object potential. JHAs allow us to recognize and address issues before they become an incident.