Leading safety equipment expert OnSite Support is urging construction firms and organisations with staff working at height, to help reduce the risks of someone getting seriously injured this summer from falling tools and equipment.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 37,102 injuries in construction and manual industries in the UK last year, 4,339 (12%) of these were people being hit by a dropped object.
“Falling objects are a serious concern that can put a workforce and the public at risk and result in lost productivity and prosecution by the HSE,” says Damian Lynes, OnSite Support’s safety expert.
“Something as small as a bolt dropped from a sixth floor building – which is equivalent to being hit by 49.5kgs at 50mph – is enough to kill someone, even if they are wearing a hard hat.”
But he says these injuries could be virtually eliminated by taking a few simple preventive steps.
“All work at height should be preceded by a risk assessment which will identify any potential dangers to those carrying out the task and people on the ground.
“Once workers are safely tied off, the next step is to have a dropped object prevention plan to ensure the tools and equipment going up or being used by the worker are equally secure,” explains Damian.
He advises that cords, hoses and ropes should be tied up to prevent them from becoming trip hazards and tools tied-off on a lanyard or tethering device.
Currently, there are no national regulations for tethering tools which is why Damian believes organisations with personnel who routinely work at heights should develop an internal fall protection programme with a tool tethering protocol to ensure safe working practices.
“Tools which are being transported or hoisted at height should always be carried in a purpose-designed bag or pouch with a closure so that items such as hand tools and nuts and bolts can’t fall out,” explains Damian. “Tool pouches should ideally have tethered lanyards or retractable lanyards which prevent their contents from becoming drop hazards.”
Another important decision is whether to carry or hoist the container.
“Look for a container with versatile handles or a tool holster or belt which enables hands-free working,” says Damian. “Also check the weight rating on the lanyard. If the weight of the gear is too heavy for the pouch or for someone to carry, it should be hoisted.”
Finally, Damian says that falling object zones should be clearly communicated to employees, visitors and any passers-by that may be at risk.
Hazard warning signs also need to be visible in risk areas, and exclusion zones created in particularly dangerous areas.