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Date PostedMay 30, 2012

White Card Update : Caution! Falling Objects

The issue of falling objects on construction sites has come to the fore, after a teenager was killed by a falling excavator bucket in Sydney’s south-west. The young 17 year old worker received fatal head injuries and thereafter suffered cardiac arrest which resulted in his death.

A separate incident occurred approximately a month ago when a man in his thirty’s was fatally wounded by an excavator bucket when it’s pin was not correctly placed.

These two occurrences although tragic highlight the need for stricter adherence to safety measures on site. Falling objects present a very real danger to construction workers and need to be addressed on every construction work site. All employees need to take the necessary precautions to avoid objects falling and hitting other people on site and adjoining areas, such as dwellings, yards, or roads beside the construction site.

Risk Control Measures

Certain measures can be undertaken to reduce risks involved with falling objects.

The ideal solution would be the elimination of the hazard from the workplace. Question whether the hazard is really necessary, if it isn’t remove it from the construction site.

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 implored 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.

Possible falling hazards are objects such as tools and materials, debris and other equipment that has the potential to fall from a workstation or platform or into a trench and potentially injure a worker or passer-by.

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to assess the risk of objects falling and injuring workers. Controls must be used to reduce these risks. Safety controls need to be in accordance with regulation standards.

Possible measures that can be undertaken include

  • Barricade or hoarding at least 900mm high less than or equal to 15 degrees,
  • hoarding at least 1800mm high greater than 15 degrees and less than or equal to 30 degrees,
  • fully sheeted hoarding at least 1800mm high greater than 30 degrees.
  • If the angle is equal to or more than 75 degrees and not demolition work, erecting work or dismantling formwork you should erect a gantry, close the adjoining area, ?erect a catch platform with vertical sheeting or perimeter screening.
  • For demolition work or work to erect or dismantle formwork, the principal contractor must close the adjoining area, or screening containment can be erected on the perimeter.

However, where these controls are not possible, the public must be kept out of the adjoining area where loads are being lifted unless a gantry has been provided and the gantry must be capable of withstanding the force of the load if it fell.

As an employee there are certain basic steps that can be followed to minimise the risk of injury from falling hazards

  • 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

Picture: seton.net.au

  • 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

Another falling hazard that has been particularly prevalent on construction sites is objects falling while being hoisted. These types of incidents normally result in serious injury and death. To avoid these occurrences:

  • Install hoists as per the designers, manufacturers and suppliers specifications.
  • Barricade the hoist and control access to the area where it is in operation, prevent unauthorised entry.
  • When the hoist landing area is on a scaffold work platform, make sure the scaffolding has been verified as safe to use in this manner.
  • Make sure the areas where the objects may fall (the area above which the hoist is lifting) has been assigned a ‘no-go zones’ and maintain the area like this throughout the hoisting period.
  • The load must be contained fully within the hoist platform. The load must be properly secured and within the safe working load limits of the hoist.
  • Do not work beneath other workers or beneath materials that are being lifted.
  • Make sure that the person operating the hoist is competent and in possession of a national certificate of competency for a materials platform hoist (HM).

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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