Protect Yourself from Falling Objects
By Neil Kalra
Among the many hazards construction workers face on a jobsite is falling objects. Every year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records more than 50,000 "struck by falling object" events in the United States. That's one injury from a dropped object every 10 minutes.
Rebar, sheet metal, pre-fab concrete, and power tools are just some examples of what can fall a few feet, or multiple stories, onto any unsuspecting worker, pedestrian or vehicle. Head trauma, crush injuries and other life-threatening wounds are frequently the result when an object falls from even a few feet onto an unsuspecting victim.
There are many different scenarios where a falling object tragedy may occur at a building construction site, including:
A crane operator drops a multi-ton payload by mistake.
A building demolition produces falling debris.
Insufficient safety barricades – at any height
Not inspecting equipment which then gives way under load stress
Not securing tools and other equipment; then a worker accidentally drops something while working at height.
Falling Object Injuries are Preventable
One example of a falling object fatality occurred in Jersey City a few years ago. An independent trucker died while delivering sheet rock to a construction site. He was pulling his head out of a vehicle after speaking with someone when he was struck by a one-pound tape measure that had slipped out of a worker's hands 50 stories above.
Many of the safety violations which are supposed to protect construction workers from falling objects are preventable. But lots of contractors – by not providing the necessary personal fall protection systems for both the workers and their tools – try to evade this duty. This is a direct cause of many struck by object injuries. But workers must also be proactive and do their part to protect themselves and fellow workers from being hurt by these falling, unguided missiles.
Owners, Contractors, and Workers are Responsible for Falling Object Prevention
New York Labor Law § 240(1) – the Scaffold Law – puts the responsibility on property owners and general contractors to ensure construction sites are safe places to work. Falling object injuries are covered by this law; which mandates that property owners and their contractors:
Provide sufficient safety training and the proper devices (winches, hoists, and pulleys) to safely lift and lower items
Prevent items (and workers) from falling from any injurious height and being hurt or killed. This is commonly accomplished by the use of debris nets, toe boards and personal protective equipment (PPE) to catch the falling objects, or limit the damage
But since not every owner or contractor does that, to avoid “struck by” injuries, workers themselves must assume responsibility for their safety, and that of their surrounding area, as best they can by:
Wearing their hard hats snugly.
Stacking materials properly to prevent sliding, falling, or collapse.
Always using proper PPE (safety glasses, goggles, and face shields).
Securing tools and materials to not fall on people below.
Not working under cranes, hoists, or heavy machinery while in they’re operating.
Inspecting crane and hoist wire rope, lifting hooks, chains, etc. to ensure they are in proper working order.
Inspecting their tools to ensure proper guards are in place.
And never clean clothing with compressed air.
Falling objects are serious safety concerns when construction work is done overhead or on an elevated location. The above simple safety measures can minimize the risk of falling objects and protect workers.
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