What You Need to Know About Fall Protection for Tools.
For workers at height the number one safety concern is preventing a fall, whether it be a person or an object. According to Safe Work Australia, Falls are a major cause of death and serious injury in Australian workplaces, and being struck by a falling object is a leading cause of injury for workers and the 4th highest cause of death in the workplace*.
“Fall Protection” has historically referred to the harness and gear that either prevents a person from falling, or protects them in the event of a fall. Today many organisations are starting to understand that fall protection should refer to anything that can fall, including tools and equipment. But with tools and equipment, it’s not about catching the objects that fall, we have to stop them from falling in the first place.
“What goes up must come down.”
– Isaac Newton –
Are Dropped Objects a New Problem?
The more correct question is how long have dropped objects been a problem. The answer is forever! Ever since the cave men days, cave men have been dropping rocks on other cave men. What goes up must come down. It’s all about providing the right equipment and training to ensure that a person, and the tools they carry, come back down safely on the workers’ terms and not that of gravity.
Fall protection for tools is not a new concern; it has been an important topic in the industry for over 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century, the New York Times published an article about dropped objects, in which it described placards posted on a bridge to caution iron workers to handle tools with care in order to avoid dropping them into the river. Still today, the most common strategy is to use signage to warn workers and passersby of the potential dangers that might occur when approaching a certain area.
Putting up warning signs, wearing hard hats, or using plywood boards to protect the sidewalk below might seem like an effective strategy, but it does not work 100% of the time. Why not? First, when objects fall, their trajectory isn’t always predictable. However, the main reason these measures lack effectiveness is that they focus on protecting people and surfaces from dropped objects, rather than addressing the source of the problem. Striving to reduce the number of dropped objects is key to truly eliminating the issue at its source.
Dropped Object Prevention
Many companies overlook the importance of personal fall arrest systems, but even more fail to address systems designed to keep tools from falling. All too often they solely rely on secondary systems such as debris nets, toe boards, and personal protective equipment to catch the tool or to limit the damage that it does to the worker. Little thought is put into stopping the tool from falling in the first place.
The danger of a dropped object is often underestimated. Even the smallest object dropped from a height as low as 200 centimetres can result in serious injury or death.
One common misconception is that hard hats are an acceptable line of defence against dropped objects. But the truth is that hard hats only provide limited protection and cannot prevent workers from being injured by all dropped objects…only dropped object prevention does.
Taken from the 3M website on dropped objects