Critical Considerations Around Falling Objects

Construction News featured our Safety, Health and Environment Advisor, Barry Thompson, who talks about the dangers of falling objects.
Each year many people are seriously injured and some even killed as a result of being struck by an object which has fallen from a height.

The dangers seem obvious as do the things we need to do keep people safe but the reality is that accident and incidents continue to happen.

In the industry, we ask ourselves, do we need legislation to tell us that an object dropped or falling from a height could kill or seriously injured?
We shouldn’t do but as you have guessed there is. The best example is the Work at Height Regulations.

Planning and organising work at height sits at the heart of these regulations and this will mean that risk assessments need to be completed to help decide what needs to be done to control the risks.

It goes on to specifically cover the risks from falling objects (Regulation 10) and danger areas (Regulation 11)

However, when we are carrying out our risk assessments we often underestimate how serious the potential outcome from such an incident will be because it is usually impossible to predict what exactly will happen as something falls on its way to earth!

There could be a number of factors affecting the outcome of an incident and thus would need to be considered. For example:
1. A falling object will not necessarily fall in a straight line – it may hit something on the way down or “sail” away from the point it started from.
2. The heavier an object is and/or the further it falls the more damage it could do.
3. Working inside or outside could have a bearing. If outside the wind, for example, may affect the way object might fall.
4. When it hits the ground an object may “bounce” or “roll” and knowing where it may finally come to rest after this is probably a guessing game.
5. How the object strikes someone is also down to luck. A sharp edge could do more damage that a flat surface or someone may receive a “glancing” blow rather than be struck “square” on!
6. The shape of the object or tool could also be important. A screwdriver or welding rod may become a spear!
7. Who might be potentially working beneath you or above and how many there are.
8. Could anyone have moved underneath you without you knowing?
There may well be others but the above provides food for thought when assessing the risks.

We all have a part to play.
Putting the right controls into place can also present challenges but it is worth remembering that when it comes to working at height the first step is an obvious one but it is sometimes overlooked.

This is can the work be planned or organised in such a way that working at height is avoided. This will eliminate the risks associated with falling objects. Designers should carefully consider what can be done here. You can too!
Where work at height cannot be avoided then it becomes necessary to put controls in place.