Falling Objects Could be the Death of You

Worker hoisting materials while working at heights

Growing up watching cartoons, there seemed to be an abundance of anvils falling—luckily the victims on these shows almost always walked away, albeit slightly squished. This slapstick-type comedy may be part of the reason falling objects aren’t taken as seriously as they should be.

In 2013, 8,609 workers were injured by falling objects in Canada and 23 of these injuries were fatal. When it comes to protecting workers from falling, the regulations regarding safety nets, hard hats, harnesses and other protective equipment are clear in Ontario and other provinces. However, regulations regarding falling tools are insufficient especially considering that even a small object can cause serious damage, or even kill someone when dropped from a height

So what can employers do to protect their workers and bystanders? 

There are the basic, passive engineering solutions such as toeboards and nets, but why not also consider the active engineering option of tethered tools, lanyards, and topped containers? Laws are not necessary for people to know that something is a hazard, so if you want to address the problem, you don’t have to wait for the regulations to catch up to new solutions. Even though the use of tethered tools and topped containers is not yet required, it’s worth considering to make your worksite safer.    
 
Tethered Tools

Tethered tools are attached to the worker (to their toolbelt or harness, for example) or an anchor point, making it impossible for the tool to be dropped off a ledge, roof or other raised structure. Many companies produce tools which already come with attachment points, but retrofitting is also an option. For example, you can purchase nylon straps with D-rings to attach to your tools. There are quite a few options available out there, so consider what’s best for your workers. 

What needs to be remembered about tethered tools is the capacity of the lanyard versus the weight of the tool. When using body harnesses, most people know their weight which makes it easy to pick the right harness. The same is true for tools—although not many people are in the habit of weighing their equipment, knowing how much it weighs will allow you to choose the right lanyards (and the right attachment points if you need to retrofit your tools). 

When choosing the right equipment, you have to ensure that the connectors are strong and that the body of the lanyard will withstand the force of a dropped tool. Some energy-absorbing lanyards can even reduce that force. However, when implementing the option of tethered tools, it must be remembered that no matter how strong the lanyard, tools weighing more than 2.2 kg (5 lb) should never be attached to the worker. Use an anchor point instead. If you don’t, the falling tool could easily pull someone off with it or cause an injury. 

Topping

Transporting toolboxes can be a hazardous task. For example, if a worker is climbing a ladder, they have to maintain three points of contact, which can be tricky when carrying equipment. The tools could fall out of the container when it swings or if it falls over. This is why a bucket or a pouch with a cover or closure can make a difference. There are many options available which have body attachments (to be used when the container is not too heavy to transport this way) and closure systems preventing items from falling out. Many are also made easy to transport and, if they’re too heavy, they can be safely hoisted up. Ensure the right capacity and the right type for the job they’re meant to be performing. Consider the right materials for your worksite and remember to check if your equipment is certified

When implementing the option of tethered tools and topped containers at your worksite, provide your employees with relevant training. They should know how to use the containers and be familiar with the weight requirements for the lanyards. They should understand which tools can be safely attached to the workers, which have to be attached to a fixed structure, and how to do it. Your employees also need to know the safe way of sharing attached tools with co-workers. Providing people with new equipment is not always enough. They also need to know how to use it correctly.