A Pennsylvania work injury lawyer discusses the dangers of dropped objects and working in high places
Tossing a tape measure at someone on the ground might irritate them but drop a tool from 50 stories up and it might kill them.
Working from heights can be dangerous and fatal.
Ensuring safety means that exercising situational awareness is vital both for employees working from heights and the public below, according to a post on workplace-issues website EHSToday.
For drivers, pedestrians and others on the ground going about their routines beneath cranes, towers and other high workplaces, accepting shared responsibility can help people stay out of harm’s way.
Wherever work is underway at heights — multistory buildings, bridges, cell towers, raised walkways, wind turbines, factory equipment — any safety lapse can lead to injury or death.
Ways to stay safe when working from heights
Here are three steps to greater safety in working from heights:
- Employers must emphasize safety. That includes ensuring that job sites use the American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions (ANSI/ISEA 121-2018) developed by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), in working with industry representatives. This standard establishes minimum design, performance, testing and labeling requirements for solutions that reduce cases of dropped objects in work settings. Dropped objects include hand tools, instrumentation, small parts, and structural components.
- Stop embracing “acceptable risk.” The inhuman calculus that a certain number of injuries and even deaths is simply part of the cost of doing business must be replaced by a culture that values life, strives for productivity within the bounds of safety and establishes a practice of no-fault communication. The work environment should encourage employees to speak up and intervene to prevent incidents and injuries.
- Everyone can help with safety. The laws of gravity and physics don’t discriminate. Safety at heights impacts workers and bystanders, pedestrians and drivers. While people can’t stare up at the sky all day watching for falling objects, everyone can exercise greater situational awareness and help in maintaining safety.
The EHSToday post related cases of fatalities and near misses. A crane collapsed in Seattle in April 2019 killing four people — two drivers in cars waiting for traffic to move and two construction workers. Four other people on the ground were injured.
A high-rise construction worker dropped a tape measure — from 50 stories up — in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing another worker on the ground.
A worker at the base of a grain elevator felt something heavy whisk past his face, missing him by less than an inch. He looked down and saw a nail-puller tool sticking through a half-inch sheet of plywood flooring at his feet. A fellow worker had accidentally dropped the tool from 90 feet above.
An industry safety website was recently launched. SafetyAtHeights.org states that gravity makes dropped objects accelerate at 32 feet per square second. The longer the drop, the faster the fall.
Industries where elevated work areas are common have been especially susceptible to the risk of dropped objects. These include the oil and gas, construction, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, shipping operations and aviation industries.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), dropped objects are the third leading cause of injury in construction. Highway collisions and falls led the way.
Falls are the leading cause of deaths in the U.S. construction industry.
Injuries caused by falls are more likely to be life-threatening than most other types of injuries. Injuries from falls can impact the whole body, including vital organs.
Contact Vellner Law Workers’ Compensation And Disability Law today for help with injury cases involving working from heights.