How can Workers Protect Themselves from Falling Objects?August 9, 2021
Falling objects at the workplace or job site are a verified hazard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 241 deaths in 2019 from falling objects or equipment, many of those occurring in the construction industry.
Falling objects are also responsible for thousands of worker injuries each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports up to 50,000 injuries annually from falling objects and equipment at the worksite. Even though a wrench or hammer may not seem heavy, it can strike someone with thousands of pounds of force when dropped. Gravity is dangerous.
There is abundant protective equipment to keep workers from being injured when they fall. Luckily, there are also many ways to lessen worker injury when objects fall. Every company should consider a drop-prevention program in addition to fall prevention to keep workers above and below as safe as possible.
Best Practices to Protect Workers from Falling Objects
Every workplace or job site where equipment or other objects could fall from above should require protective equipment and mandate safety protocols. Following are some best practices to reduce employee injury at construction sites, warehouses, factories, and other worksites where objects could fall.
- Conduct a safety audit. At each job site or workplace, it is important to do a full audit of known or potential safety risks. This audit should be conducted annually and anytime new equipment, tools, or machinery is added. It enables employers to stay current on safety protocols and known risks.
- Review falling object-protection protocols. Most workplaces in which employees work at heights have strict guidelines for preventing worker falls. These guidelines should include rules for reducing harm from falling objects as well. People working below others must be protected as carefully as those working above.
- Tether equipment and tools to a fixed structure. Many devices have built-in connection points and anchors for tethering to a fixed structure, such as a beam. Tools and equipment can also usually be retrofitted to include a tethering mechanism. Tethering works for lighter tools and equipment such as generators and rivet busters that weigh up to 80 pounds.
- Use tool lanyards. Tool lanyards allow workers to tether tools to their belts, harnesses, or wrists. These lanyards make it nearly impossible for a loose tool to drop. They also prevent accidents if a worker inadvertently drops the device. Note that instruments weighing more than five pounds should never be tethered to a worker, as they could injure a worker or even cause them to lose their balance and fall.
- Train workers on how to use and transfer tethered tools. There is skill involved in carefully tethering, using, and transferring tethered devices to another worker. Employers must make sure workers are carefully trained on the best methods. For example, a worker who moves tools to another employee should wait until the device is tethered to that employee before disconnecting it from themselves. That way, there is 100 percent protection from dropping the tool.
- Hoist tools and equipment up. Many job sites do not allow workers to ascend with tools and equipment attached to them. They find it far safer to hoist the needed equipment up separately, reducing the risk of it falling from a worker.
- Make workers aware of drop hazards. An internal workforce safety campaign could bring much-needed awareness to the dangers of falling and dropped objects at work. Employers should teach employees safety methods and train them on best practices for working at heights with tools and equipment.
- Require risk assessments. OSHA requires a formal process of written risk assessments in specific workplaces, such as those with machines. The assessments evaluate risk, promote methods to reduce risk, and encourage the workforce to accept the solutions.
- Designate a safety manager at each job site or workplace. Putting one person in charge of safety can help ensure that protocols are followed, including those related to protection from dropped and falling objects.
- Have surprise safety checks. Sometimes workers may slack off safety protocols or even forget to use protective equipment. Regular safety checks that come without notice can help keep workers aware of protecting themselves every day.
- Allow only minimum tools at heights. Many workplaces permit employees working at heights to bring up only the tools they need for the particular job. This helps lessen the risk of tools falling because of not being tethered or a crowded tool workspace.
- Require hard hats. Although stopping objects from falling should be the aim of any safety program, protective equipment such as hard hats can lessen the severity of an injury if an object does drop. Hard hats should also include chin straps. This simple addition to the helmet can save lives and prevent injuries. A chin strap keeps the helmet in place when a worker is bending over or in motion. Also, it keeps the helmet, and head, secure if a worker slips or falls accidentally.
- Use the many protective items available. It is important to do a full review of what is available for keeping objects used at heights from falling. In addition to tethered lanyards, there are buckets, bags, pouches, and safety-closure items readily available on the market today.
- Install toe boards. Toe boards are protective barriers placed in the ground or near where employees walk to protect employees from objects that could fall from a platform or raised area. They should be capable of withstanding a force of 50 pounds.
- Attach safety nets. Debris nets are a secondary support solution at a worksite. They are placed in areas where equipment and tools could be dropped and are designed to catch falling objects, such as tools. Safety nets alone are not a solution, as they do not protect from heavy objects.
What if a Falling Object Injures Me at Work?
Despite all safety precautions, objects can and will fall in the workplace. A worker injured when an object falls from above should immediately notify a supervisor or the Human Resources department.
Employers are required to report workplace injuries to Workers’ Compensation and file a claim on the injured employee’s behalf.
A worker has 120 days from the date of injury to notify an employer of the injury, but telling them immediately is best. Otherwise, costs for medical care may not be covered under the employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance right away.
After notifying the employer, the employee should always seek immediate medical attention.
An employee may not believe that they are seriously injured and may forego medical attention. This is not a good idea. First, many injuries take time to develop, as is often the case with brain and soft tissue injuries. They may not surface right away because often, swelling does not reach a point to cause pain or headache until hours or even days after injury.
Another reason to seek medical attention is to document injuries and recovery. The employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurer will want a lot of documentation, especially those regarding costs, therapies, and prognoses.
Workers’ Compensation insurance claims can be tricky. It is a good idea for an injured employee to have an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer on their side as they work with their employer and the insurer.
A lawyer will focus on getting the injured worker the maximum benefits for which they are entitled, including compensation for medical bills, lost wages, permanent or severe disability, and other costs. Workers’ Compensation will rarely cover all the expenses an injured employee may incur, including those in the future. No one should pay out of their own pockets when someone else’s negligence causes an injury or death.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Injured Employees
Employers have the responsibility of keeping their workers safe, no matter where employees are working. The Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton fight diligently for the rights of injured employees every day. We will fight for you and your loved ones, too. Call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.