Struck-by hazards are high on the list of causes of death in the workplace in Nebraska and elsewhere. Reportedly, transportation accidents top the list of fatal workplace accidents, followed by violence in the workplace. Number three is contact made with equipment and objects -- most frequently involving individuals struck by falling objects. Falls were third on the list before emphasis programs led to more compliance with safety regulations, hence fewer fatalities.
Companies tend to address safety hazards only after severe injuries or deaths occur. However, as an employee, you have a right to a safe workplace environment, and your employer must take the following steps to protect you from tools falling from a higher level:
- Secure materials and tools that could fall and injure workers on lower levels by using fall protection for tools
- Barricade dangerous areas below workers from where objects may fall such as scaffolding structures and other higher levels, and post adequate warning signs
- Prevent fallen objects from reaching lower levels by installing guardrails, toe boards and screens on scaffolds and other upper-level work areas
- Deflect falling objects before they can cause harm by using catch platforms, debris nets or canopies to catch them
To prevent falling tools, attachment points on tools can allow you to tether them by using tool lanyards. Other fall protection devices for tools include wristbands, D-rings, quick rings and spins to use as secure lashing points, self-fusing tape, and other cinch attachments.
Five rules to follow when using fall protection for tools:
- When using wristbands, attachment points and lanyards to secure tools with fall protection equipment, the methods must not interfere with the efficiency of the tools you use or compromise your productivity.
- Your employer must provide tools that you can tie off without them needing modifications or alterations, because if securing a tool is a complicated process it can lead to disregard of the safety precautions.
- There are load ratings for tether points, and your employer must provide the necessary training to prevent overloading that could lead to the failure of the fall prevention equipment.
- When securing tools weigh in excess of five pounds, the tethering point must be a fixed structure approved for the purpose, rather than a tethering point on yourself, such as a D-ring on your harness.
- Avoid using tools and securing devices of different brands, as manufacturers typically design their products to work together to provide maximum efficiency. The maker of a tool fall protection system may not guarantee its devices if used with tools of other brands.
While prevention is always better than reacting after an incident, workplace accidents will continue to occur. If a falling tool strikes you on a construction site, the consequences can be devastating, and it could even be fatal. Financial assistance through the Nebraska workers' compensation insurance system can help to ease the financial burden of the injured worker or the surviving family members of a deceased worker.