An incident at an aluminium factory recently is an example of how workers can be hit by falling objects unexpectedly causing serious injury. Although the incident did not occur on a construction site, building sites are rife with falling object hazards, it is an area of safety that has WorkCover particularly concerned.
Read about the incident as documented by SafetyCulture.com.au:
WorkCover is investigating after a 1.4 tonne pallet of glass fell on a worker at an aluminium factory at Milperra on Thursday.
Initial enquiries indicate that the worker was unloading a shipping container when a pallet of glass has shifted and pinned the worker, causing serious injuries.
WorkCover inspectors have visited the site and a full investigation has commenced.
The incident follows a number of recent fatalities which led to WorkCover establishing a Task Force to focus on improving safety in the glass manufacturing industry in Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra.
One of the responsibilities held by construction employers and contractors is to provide a safe system of work and work environment for their staff, part of which entails ensuring that workers do not sustain blows from being hit by falling objects on site. Employers should ensure that they take certain measures to reduce risks involved with falling objects to avoid incidents such as this one from occurring again.
The ideal solution would be the elimination of the hazard from the workplace. By questioning whether the hazard is really necessary and removing it if it isn’t, employers can protect workers from falling objects. If that is not possible substitute the hazard for something less dangerous. This could entail using safer equipment or materials.
If it cannot be removed or swopped, isolate the hazard from the general construction site population. This could be done by building fences around the hazard. Engineering methods can be used to improve processes, such as constructing barriers.
Another measure that can be used is administrative barriers, which can be successful in minimising risks as long as these measures are adhered to. Admin measures include policy and procedural changes, operational changes, additional signage etc.
The final measure in minimising falling hazards is the use of personal protective wear. These are compulsory and involve wearing hardhats, safety boots etc.
An important consideration in minimising the risk of workers being injured by falling objects is to ensure good housekeeping is practiced by workers. Tools, debris and materials left out can be a hazard if it falls and hits workers at lower levels, in addition to presenting tripping hazards.
A few pointers on reducing injuries by falling objects:
- Use fences and barricades to separate the hazard from other workers and people
- Use the appropriate signs to warn of the danger of falling objects
- Install safety nets where necessary to catch falling objects or debris
- Keep tools in the appropriate place or toolbox
- Ensure materials are properly secured when moving or lifting