Avoiding Falling Objects

The construction industry can serve as an arena of multiple hazards. This is often due to simultaneous activities taking place. Where a work area is congested and multiple crews and trades are doing their part to complete a project, the likelihood of falling objects is quite prevalent. 

This does not necessarily indicate that a negative reaction will be felt from that falling object, but it can still be identified as a coaching moment. That wrench falling from the ladder might not strike an unsuspecting employee; however, it very well could have if that employee happened to be infiltrating its downward path. 

The chance or possibility of unwanted contact is the only fuel needed to take precautions and implement a program to avoid dropping objects, whether it be from a ladder or from mechanical lifting. Following safety guidelines directed towards managing objects and tools used at heights can help ensure a safe and successful workday. 

Barricades 

The best way to avoid exposure is to stay away from its point of origin. When working from heights, it is almost guaranteed that the use of tools and materials will be involved. Instead of allowing the workforce to pass through this work zone, direct them away. The most effective means to accomplish such a feat is through barricading. 

A roll of yellow caution tape is an inexpensive yet extremely effective method of identifying a potentially unsafe work area. If the goal is to keep individuals out of the area so they can stay safely away from an object that might fall from a height, yellow caution tape is effective. One should remember that yellow caution tape can be penetrated when the area is deemed safe to access. 

Red caution tape effectively identifies an area as unsafe at all times. As a result, no one is allowed to enter the barricaded work area at any time. This proves quite useful as some areas might be unsafe at all times. 

No matter the type selected for the particular work taking place, the barricade tape can deter potential entrants. If the zone is 50 feet in diameter and all non-essential personnel stay outside of it, a falling wrench from 50 feet above should fall and land without serious impact. The best way to avoid a hazard is to not be in the area to encounter it.

Tool Logs 

They say what goes up must come down. That is a school of thought that many subscribe to when it comes to tools and equipment being used at heights. A valuable tool used to ensure that those instruments return safely to the ground is a tool log. 

These are simple tools where a designated person manages the inventory that goes up and ensures it returns. Documenting each piece of equipment, tool, or piece of material provides a list to refer to when the work is complete. All tools used at heights should be entered on the list, and when the work is complete, everything on the list should be 

returned safely to the ground. 

Any devices on the list that are not accounted for must be retraced to the work area. If a pipe wrench is listed on the log, and it cannot be located, the chance is quite high that it is still in the work area above. While it can be unnerving that the tool was left up above and could have fallen, the log at least triggers a quick retrieval to diminish the chance of it falling and striking an unsuspecting bystander. 

Personal Protective Equipment 

When considering controls, the industry hierarchy stipulates that hazard sources should be eliminated if possible. The next level of protection is engineering controls. The next layer or level to consider is administrative controls. 

When hazard elimination and control implementation do not adequately protect the workforce, the last line of defense has always been the use of personal protective equipment. Hard hats are a means of personal protective equipment that protect individuals from falling objects. 

A hammer falling from the top of an eight-foot step ladder and strikes an individual’s head can levy serious medical consequences. A hard hat can lessen the potential impact, but can still generate pain and damage. 

They are significantly useful when ducking under support members or in low-lying areas. While their use can be effective, a spool of pipe that falls from 25 feet in the air will still generate serious and potentially fatal implications upon contact, even with a hard hat.

This should not dissuade workers from wearing hard hats. In many cases, they protect employees from strikes and lacerations of a lesser degree. Their use is still crucial in the workplace. 

Working from heights can be dangerous work. In addition to the hazard of a person falling, dropped objects are another source of incident and injury needing to be addressed. Acting responsibly and implementing safe work programs like barricading and checklists can help avoid unfavorable outcomes. Utilizing personal protective equipment can do its own part in lessening the impact should they be encountered when other precautions fail to achieve the desired results. The combination of all greatly increases the chances of all employees returning safely to their families at the end of the day. 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]