The importance of preventative measures when working at heights
Every year in Canada, over 27,000 injuries occur due to falling objects. In the United States, an injury caused by a dropped object occurs every ten minutes – with a staggering 52,260 injuries reported each year. What’s even more alarming is that that there are many more of these injuries that are not reported, potentially resulting in an even higher number of undocumented injuries.
These startling statistics show the importance of dropped object prevention planning. A dropped object prevention plan can help protect workers and other people on, or near, job sites from the dangers of dropped objects. A dropped object prevention plan is specifically tailored to a unique company/worksite and outlines the minimum expectations required to minimize the risk of personal injury or property damage caused by dropped or falling objects. It also outlines the methods for securing all tools and materials that could be considered drop hazards with primary and secondary drop prevention systems.
Key considerations in dropped object prevention planning
There are many considerations that should be part of your dropped object prevention plan but these three key considerations shouldn’t be overlooked:
- Responsibilities. Every dropped object prevention plan must have a section that outlines the responsibilities of everyone working on the job site. This includes management and supervision, health and safety personnel, and the employees. Some responsibilities may include details about:
- Providing appropriate equipment to implement safety procedures
- Conducting assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of safety precautions
- Conducting necessary training
- Notifying management of drop hazards in a work area
- Immediate reporting of any dropped or fallen objects
- Training. In many circumstances, additional training related to the prevention of dropped objects is necessary for employees. Training should be extended to all employees who may create or be exposed to dropped objects while on the job. Training should outline the following:
- Risks of dropped objects in the workplace
- Proper equipment and procedures that can help prevent dropped objects
- Purpose and application of primary and secondary drop prevention systems
- Proper storage and handling of materials at heights
- Reporting requirements for dropped objects and potential for dropped objects
- Drop prevention systems and criteria (primary and secondary). There are two types of dropped object prevention systems: primary and secondary. Primary drop prevention systems cover direct methods to prevent dropped objects and can include tool attachment points, tool lanyards, tool holsters, and more. Secondary drop prevention systems are indirect methods that help protect workers and other people from being injured from a potential falling object. This includes things like safety nettings, toe boards and limited access zones that restrict traffic to hazardous areas of the job site.
Visualizing the effects of impact force
If you’ve heard the urban legend about how a penny falling from a skyscraper can kill a person, you likely understand the effects that impact force can have on falling objects. When an object is dropped from heights, it can have the impact force of a much larger object. This chart was created by 3M Fall Protection and helps illustrate the mass that falling objects can take on, depending on the height they are dropped from.
An important thing to note about falling objects is that when they fall, they don’t always fall straight down. This means that a falling object could be deflected far from where it was originally dropped, reinforcing the importance of primary and secondary drop prevention systems that help protect people on the ground.
To learn more about a dropped object prevention plan for your workplace, please get in touch with us online or at 1-800-387-7484. Our fall protection specialists will work with you to develop a dropped object prevention plan to help increase the safety of your workplace.
 Associated Worker’s Compensation Board of Canada, 2013.
 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012