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2022 / 2023 Edition

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Beware of falling objects!

Falling tools and equipment

Safety equipment expert warns of the risks of injury from falling tools and equipment

SAFETY equipment experts OnSite Support are urging construction firms and other businesses whose staff work at height to help reduce the risks of someone getting seriously injured from falling tools and equipment.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 37,102 injuries in the construction and manual industries in the UK last year, and 4,339 (12%) of these were the result of people being hit by a dropped/falling 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. Something as small as a bolt dropped from the sixth floor of a building is enough to kill someone, even if they are wearing a hard hat,’ said OnSite Support safety expert Damian Lynes. 

However, according to Mr Lynes, such 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,’ he said. ‘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.’

Mr Lynes said cords, hoses and ropes should be tied up to prevent them from becoming trip hazards, and tools should be tied-off on a lanyard or tethering device.

Currently, there are no national regulations for tethering tools, which is why Mr Lynes believes organizations 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,’ he explained. ‘Tool pouches should ideally have tethered 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 allows hands-free working,’ said Mr Lynes. ‘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, 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.’

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