Dropped Object Prevention- It's a Necessity

Author: Leah Cooper

Several plaques around the premier of the Empire State Building lookout read, "THROWING OBJECTS FROM OBSERVATORY IS DANGEROUS, UNLAWFUL, AND PROHIBITED." It may remind you of your high school science days. We have all mulled over textbook equations to find the velocity of a penny dropped from this same Empire State's roof. Although being hit by a penny dropped from its 1,250-foot height would at most be irritating, a larger and weightier object— like your smartphone— is life-threatening. The sign is a reminder to keep your possessions close and deter uninformed pranksters. You will find similar signs atop the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo's Skytree, and the Willis Tower in Chicago.

The matter is that intentional or accidental falling objects are a public safety hazard. At only 30 feet in height, a 3-pound object can inflict fatal injuries, in these instances, many cities enforce a felony sentence for reckless endangerment at minimum. However, damages from fallen objects at popular tourist destinations are exceedingly uncommon; the actual risk lies in urban construction sites. According to Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Barbanel in his article Around New York Building Sites, a Little-Known Threat, he writes "…at least once a month on average, a passerby is injured near a New York City construction site by anything from falling bricks, hammers and glass to windblown fences and collapsing sidewalk sheds."

From the Left: Skytree (Tokyo, Japan); Willis Tower (Chicago, IL); Eiffel Tower (Paris, France); Empire State (New York, NY)

New York City has an alarming rate of incidents. It is no surprise. An increase in construction over the past decades, combined with residents' dense population, has created the perfect conditions for worksite accidents. Residents of the city have reported injuries from an assortment of objects, materials, and tools, as both passerby pedestrians, drivers, and vehicle passengers. But this is not a localized phenomenon. Falling object injuries are among the top ten common causes of construction accidents globally.

Experts agree that the best safety measures taken against falling objects are preventative, not reactionary. Many worksites include a legal, fenced perimeter called the 'safe exclusion zone.' This safe exclusion zone is primarily a measure for civilian safety; however, a passive border has several critical faults: the first being deflection. Acted upon by gravity, falling objects quickly build up a substantial impact force— many objects, like hammers and other small hand tools, are subject to deflecting, otherwise known as the ricochet effect, off contact surfaces and bypassing the secure perimeter. Factoring in weather, such as inclement winds, that can transport loose objects make human-made boundaries arbitrary. Additionally, perimeters provide little protection to enclosed construction employees who are significantly more at risk for falling-object-injury. In the case of a rogue screwdriver that has rolled off the scaffolding, this falling object can easily penetrate soft tissue to a disastrous effect.

Hard hats and visibility gear lack the durability needed to prevent bodily harm from objects at increased heights. Drops Online, the Dropped Objects Prevention Scheme Global Resource Centre, has charted the calculated variables of height and weight of common drop scenarios. Standard PPE is already accounted for.

It is just physics. Calculating the falling energy, or joules, of an object is essential to OSHA's standard regulations for worksite infrastructure and anti-fall PPE. Multiply the object's mass by the falling height and gravitational acceleration: the equation for joules. It is recognized that any object with falling energy of 40 joules or more is likely to cause a minor incident, assuming the object does not penetrate the body. Despite the larger green space denoting 'slight' incidents above, there is no guaranteed way to eliminate the possibility of deeper injury.  

Preventative measures should take precedence. Tethering, netting, and employee training is the best first step to mitigating worksite risk. Lanyards safely catch dropped tools before any impact. Lanyards also provide convenience for onsite workers, keeping their equipment on hand at their side. SRL's, or safety retractable lines, are increasingly common in today's multi-storied construction zones. Prepare your crew with multipacks of Ty-Flot's Tool Collar Kits to make your gear securable and more drop-resistant; these fit a varied range of screwdrivers and shaft tools. The 3M Protecta Rebel SRL utilizes 50 feet of galvanized steel cable to withstand the impact of a fallen tool and allow the user to return them to hand quickly. Ideal for heavy and high-value power tools. The Rebel is a durable and sturdy option with its 420lb capacity. Use for your tools or with an appropriate personal safety harness to prevent not only equipment falls but also employee falls. For a lighter weight option, consider the Miller Mighty Lite SRL; while limited by a smaller capacity of 310 pounds, the Mighty Lite itself weighs only 2 pounds, decreasing overall load. Tether together structural materials like I-beams to prevent spills onsite with the FallTech Cable Pass-Thru Anchor Sling. The vinyl-coated steel cable is near impervious to cuts and abrasion, as well as weather-resistant and easy to assemble.

At General Equipment and Supply (GES), there is a discounted fall-prevention tool for each of your job site safety needs. All tools meet safety standard requirements. Please browse our catalog for the brands you trust: Greenlee, Miller, Ridgid, Sumner, and more: 50% or more off distributor prices. All reconditioned tools and equipment come with a 1-year operational warranty. Contact us today to learn more on how GES can help your business gear up on safety for your next project.

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