Dropped Tools Are Deadly Missiles…and Your Hard Hat Won’t Save You

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  • “A 3-pound tool falling from 200 feet strikes the earth with 1,062 pounds per square inch of force.
  • “An 8-pound wrench dropped from 200 feet would hit with a force of 2,833 pounds per square inch.”                 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

But what does that mean? According to Mark Caldwell, former CEO of Python Safety and Director of Fall Protection for Tools at Capital Safety and 3M, it means that hardhats and drop zones are of little consequence when an object carrying this kind of energy makes a direct impact or deflects off of another object before it hits the ground. “That is the equivalent of a small car hitting a 1-square-inch area,” he said.

Kathy Gill of Tower Safety & Instruction tells a story that on a clear, sunny day in May, a crew of five is stacking a tower; a JSA was completed, the crew had all their certificates, but something was overlooked — PPE Inspection. The climber did not properly tighten his body belt, causing the tool bag connected to his harness to fall and crush the face of an employee on the ground. PPE inspections are to be performed according to 29 CFR 1926.95. Many times, the harnesses are too large or too small for the students. In this case study, the improper donning of a harness led to dropped tools and serious injury to an employee.

“For example,” Gill said, “employers may only have specific sizes in inventory and the new employee needs a small and they give him a large or vice versa. This is a common issue; leg straps are too big, sternal D-ring is too loose, back D-ring is too low, the belt doesn’t fit, and chest straps are too loose, causing improper wear of PPE and dangerous to the employee when working at height.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 52,000 workers are “struck by a falling object,” along with OSHA recordable incidents annually. ANSI recently released their new standard: ANSI/ISEA 121-2018, Dropped Object Prevention Solutions to reduce workplace accidents, injuries, and deaths related to falling objects.

OSHA keeps a record of deaths and injuries related to dropped tools.

Gill said a dropped tool program should be thought of as fall protection, but for the tools, with its own thorough PPE Inspection training course. “Perhaps we need to include it into the JSA and Certifications to ensure the safety of everyone at a tower site,” Gill said. “There are many tools available to prevent dropped objects and it is the responsibility of the company, the CM, the Foreman, the employee, and the crew to ensure they understand the dangers faced when working at height with objects that can be dropped,” she said.

Gill said some hard and fast rules should include:

  • All materials, equipment, and tools, which are not in use while aloft, shall be secured against accidental displacement.
  • The controlling contractor shall bar other construction processes below steel erection unless overhead protection for the employees below is provided.

July 10, 2019

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