Dropped Objects Prevention Program
Why Focus on Dropped Objects?
Most work sites have places where workers and / or equipment work at heights. Many companies have very specific procedures for securing workers on items like bucket trucks or scaffolding to protect the worker elevated off ground, but may not give much attention to the workers below.
Even small items like hand tools or bolts can create a serious if not fatal injury when dropped from heights.
The Stop the Drop program is an ideal supplement to an existing Line of Fire Safety program or can also be used standalone to bring extra awareness to contractors or new people coming to your work site.
Another great resource for Dropped Object Prevention is Drops Online by DROPS: http://www.dropsonline.org. Here you will find general information, courses and the Drops Calculator, which is a great tool for demonstrating how dangerous dropped objects may be.
Calculating Dropped Object Impacts
Here are some examples of common tools used at heights and their potential for producing a Major Lost Time Jury Injury (LTI). Note that the potential impacts are assuming that the worker being impacted is wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
18″ Pipe Wrench
5lbs + 16ft = Major LTI
3lbs + 24ft = Major LTI
Ratchet & Socket
1.5lbs + 40ft = Major LTI
Lessons From the Field
Dropped Objects are a frequently overlooked safety item as they appear small when up close, but can have a major life altering incident when dropped from a seemingly small height. Here are some key points to look out for on the worksite when it comes to Dropped Objects. Stop the Drop!
This term is not just about cleanliness, its about keeping the work area free of clutter and making sure all tools and parts are properly organized and secured. A tool or a bolt on a platform can be easily kicked off.
Workers do a good job with securing themselves as height with lanyards and using 3 point contact when ascending and descending in their work area. Tools and parts are frequently carried in tool boxes or open ended tool pouches which can be easily bumped or overturned. Using tool lanyards and lockable containers that are secured to the worker are vital.
Working at heights can have numerous lighting changes as workers ascend and descend their environment. Poor visibility will hide smaller items like tools and parts, increasing the likelihood of kicking or bumping them and causing a Dropped Object. Ensure proper lighting at all levels of height and warn workers of transitions.
Just like on the ground, slippery surfaces on ladders or scaffolding can occur. These are typically less visible than on the ground and have less attention shown to them. Even though the worker is secured with their lanyard, a slip can cause a worker to bump into a loose item, causing it to fall.
Before allowing workers to work at heights, provide a roped off and clearly labeled work area so workers at lower levels know that the potential for dropped objects exist in this zone.
PPE is Not Enough
Hardhats provide minimal protection from dropped objects. Even smaller objects that drop 20 feet can be life altering or fatal. It’s a good idea to not rely on PPE for protection and remove the hazard as the first option. PPE is the last line of defence when it comes to protecting a worker.