Provisional statistics for 2016/17 recently released by the HSE reports that 137 workers suffered a fatal injury whilst working and out of those around 20 of them died due to being struck by a flying/falling object. This has already risen 33.3% when compared to the finalised results from 2015/16 and it’s also currently sitting as the 3rd highest cause of fatality at a workplace this year.
Recently a waste processing firm was fined over £70,000 after an employee was crushed to death when the carpet bales that he was processing fell on him from a stack. An investigation by the HSE found that the company failed to set up any exclusion zones around the stack of bales and they failed to ensure proper controls to reduce the risk of bales falling or injuring workers.
The non-fatal injury statistics from 2015/16 also shows us that there were over 7000 incidents of workers suffering from a non-fatal injury from falling objects, of which around 5,682 employees were off work for over 7 days. Falling objects doesn’t just affect workers, the general public for instance can also be seriously harmed or suffer a fatal injury. We have summarised some key safety precautions that would help minimise objects falling from a height and avoid injuries caused to workers or the general public.
Wearing full Personal Protection Equipment’s (PPE) especially a hard hat will seriously help reduce the injuries caused by a falling object. It’s also advisable to carry a personal protection alarm like the MicroGuard, so that an alarm can be raised automatically via the Man down function if you have suffered an injury from a falling object, especially useful if you are working alone.
Dedicated storage areas should be clearly secured so that tools and materials can be stored without the risk of it falling. The use of toe boards and debris nets would also help towards reducing the risk of workers or the general public suffering an injury.
Using tool belts or securely attaching tools to a tether would also greatly reduce the chances of tools falling off by accident. Tools that have been left unattended can be accidentally knocked over the edge, so ensure to only take the necessary equipment for the job.
Walkways should be clearly marked with hazard signs and overhead covers. If there is a higher risk of material collapsing or falling debris, then provide a reasonable diversion and restrict access to those areas.
Employers should also take a proactive approach towards conducting robust training for all their employees. Raising awareness towards the dangers of falling objects would also help workers to be more careful when they are working from a height. It’s important to help prevent this issue the same way as we help prevent workers falling from a height, to ensure that future deaths can be easily avoided.