What is the Importance of Personal Protective Equipment for Falling Objects on Job Sites?June 21, 2021
In construction and other types of job sites, the risk of falling objects from heights is always present. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year a staggering 50,000 struck-by-falling-object accidents are reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Tools, building materials, and even falling people pose a lethal risk to those below. Even something as small and relatively lightweight as a hand tool that would not be too dangerous dropped from a few feet above can become a deadly projectile as it plummets down from several stories to employees on the ground.
OSHA requires employers to provide and mandate personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees working in certain professions and trades. Proper safety training also prepares workers to navigate common job hazards to protect themselves and those around them from serious workplace accidents and injuries.
PPE to Protect Against Falling Objects
In 2014, the New York Post reported on a construction worker in Jersey City, New Jersey, who was struck and killed by a tape measure that had fallen from 50 stories above. Basic PPE could have prevented this tragic death on the construction site.
Several different devices and types of safety equipment are available to prevent injuries from falling objects. Some are designed to secure loose items, and others protect the body from impact with an airborne object.
Common PPE to prevent injuries from falling objects include the following:
Tool lanyards. OSHA requires that work materials and tools be secured to prevent them from becoming loose and falling below. Tool lanyards are straps or tethers that attach to a tool or device on one end and on the other to the worker’s wrist or belt. Should a worker drop an object, the tool lanyard keeps it close to the body. They come in different lengths and usually attach to the person with clips or carabineers.
Head protection. Industrial hard hats and helmets reduce the impact of a blow to the head. The proper type varies depending upon the job task at hand. Some are designed to protect more against a blow to the top of the head, whereas others contain additional padding to protect against blows to the back and side of the head. All protective head gear should have chin straps to keep it in place in case the worker falls or leans over.
Fall protection. Fall protection is a separate category of PPE that individuals exposed to any fall four feet or higher should utilize. Fall protection PPE contains three main elements, also known as the ABC:
- (A) Anchorages: Fixed connectors that secure connecting devices to a support structure over 5,000 ponds per person.
- (B) Body harness: Full-body harness that attach the worker to the fall protection chain. Although there are many different types of body harnesses available, all should be the right size and type for the wearer and used as intended for the job at hand.
- (C) Connecting components: Connecting devices that attach the body harness to the anchorage points.
In addition to all of these primary PPE, passive systems, including debris nets, canopies, and barricades around work areas, provide additional layers of protection to stop loose items from reaching people working underneath.
Best Practices for Preventing Job Site Injuries from Falling Objects
- Because certain systems are designed to function together, it is a good idea to stick to the same brand of PPE fall protection equipment.
- Never modify tools to secure them. That can interfere with their ability to function safely. Instead, use tool cinch attachments, self-vulcanizing tape, and D-rings that attach to tools without compromising their design or functionality.
- All tools should be secured in a way that is approved by the site and OSHA and in compliance with the load rating for each connecting component. Generally, tools weighing five pounds or more should be tethered to a system, not a person, to prevent injuries such as sprains and strains if the object falls.
- When storing and transporting tools on the site, bags, buckets, and pouches with closure systems should be used to contain items should they tip over.
- A competent manager should be assigned to oversee fall protection safety training and enforcement, and review/revise safety practices and procedures often.
Common Injuries Caused by Falling Objects
Without these protective systems in place, from the tool itself to the person stationed several stories above the ground, those manning the job site below are at risk of serious injuries. Some of these include the following:
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Back and neck injuries
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spine damage and paralysis
- Permanent disability
What to Do if a Worker is Struck by a Falling Object
Any workplace accident can be frightening, especially if the injured worker appears to be seriously hurt. Should an accident happen on the job, it is important to remain calm and take the necessary steps to contain the scene, prevent further injury, and get help.
First, do not move the injured person. They could have back or internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent and can worsen if moved. Call 911 and wait for help to arrive. Stay close to the injured person and note any changes in consciousness. Document the scene, including photos of the object that fell. Make a note of anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
How Do I Pay My Medical Bills if I am Too Hurt to Work?
A devastating work injury can impact a person’s life physically, emotionally, and financially. Beyond the injury itself and the pain and disability that entail, there are costly medical bills, time-consuming doctors’ appointments, and the possibility of a lengthy recovery.
It is not uncommon for the injured worker to be rendered unable to work in any capacity after this type of construction site accident. That means no paycheck coming in to pay for those doctor bills and prescriptions. Fortunately, most workers in Maryland are protected by the Workers’ Compensation insurance provided by their employers.
Maryland Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ Compensation benefits are available to employees in certain sectors who get hurt on the job during the course of their employment. These benefits offer some financial compensation while the employee is sidelined because of their job-related injury or occupational illness.
However, these claims are complex. There are strict timelines for reporting injuries from falling objects and other types of workplace accidents. And not all employees are covered by Workers’ Compensation. For example, employers in Maryland are not required by law to provide Workers’ Compensation for independent contractors. However, freelancers and others non-employees may opt to buy purchase this coverage at will.
Some Workers’ Compensation claims are denied by the employer. They can claim an accident did not happen at work, limit the benefits for which the worker is entitled, or claim the worker was goofing off when they got hurt. For these reasons, it is always a good idea for anyone who gets injured at work to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer in Maryland for guidance.
The lawyer will assess the case, recommend the next best step to take, and advocate for an injured worker throughout the Workers’ Compensation claim process. After all, when essential financial benefits are at stake, it makes sense to provide the strongest claim possible.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Maryland
Immediately after a work accident, the first step is getting the proper medical care. Call 911 for in a serious emergency. If the person is conscious and mobile, they should get checked out by a doctor right away. A throughout checkup is important even if the worker does not seem to have any obvious signs of injury. Many conditions are not immediately apparent or go on to get worse over time. A throughout examination can rule out a concussion, internal bleeding, and other serious delayed-onset injuries.
Next, report the accident in writing to the employer as soon as possible. Consult with a lawyer when filing the report and keep a copy as well. From there, the employer can approve or deny benefits. Some claims are denied because of simple technical errors.
In other cases, employers and their insurance providers set up roadblocks to avoid paying out a claim. When a claim is denied, an experienced and knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation lawyer can fight for injured workers in hearings that can change the course of their claim for the better.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Workers Who Have Been Hurt on the Job
If you feel overwhelmed by the rules and paperwork for your Workers’ Compensation claim, you are not alone. The system can be overwhelming, and even a simple error can hold up your benefits. Let the experienced Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton advocate on your behalf. We know how important benefits are when you are out of work. We build the strongest claim possible to prove your injury happened on the job and is covered by Workers’ Compensation. Call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.