Look Out-Above and Below

Objects falling from above and striking people below cause some of the most serious industrial injuries and account for a number of fatalities every year.

The government, recognizing the severity of the problem, has set standards under the OSHA act for occupational head protection.  Other standards for head protection have been set under the construction safety act, longshoring safety act, and NIOSH.  It is imperative that every person on the job wear a hard hat at all times.

Let's look at the problem of how to prevent falling objects.  First, is the work being done overhead?  How can accidents be prevented?  Here are some basic precautions to be followed:

.    Warn those below that you're about to begin an overhead job by signs, barricades, and good communications.

.    Don't carry tools or materials up a ladder.  Use a hand winch line, containers, or buckets lifted by a line.

.    Before raising tools or materials with a hand line or a winch line, make absolutely sure they are securely fastened so they won't slip out.

.    When you pile materials on scaffolds, make sure scaffolding and platforms are provided with toe boards so objects don't fall off.

.    Never throw materials or tools.

.    Make sure the load being lifted by hand line or scaffold is balanced and that no one is under the load being lifted.

.    Keep tools and materials away from the edges of platforms and ladders and off railings or window sills.

.    Don't stick tools in your pockets because, when you bend over or reach, they may fall out.

.    Practice good housekeeping on the overhead job and keep tools and materials that are not in use picked up and stored properly.

.    If the nature of the overhead job involves the danger of falling objects, have the area below cleared, and post the necessary warning signs.  Rope off the area.

It is equally important that personnel on the ground be aware of overhead work and obey the signs and barricades.

Another problem is poor stacking in warehouses, yards, trucks, or at the job site.  All materials should be piled on a flat base and at a reasonable height.  It is best to crosstie and cover the materials for extra protection and safety.

Not all falling objects come from great heights.  Probably the most common falling object from a small height is one that a worker is just picking up.  The worker doesn't anticipate the heaviness of the object; the object slips and strikes the worker's legs or feet.

Another common instance of an object's falling and causing injury is when two workers are carrying a piece of pipe or some other long, heavy object.  Signals are poor, and one worker drops his end of the load.  You guessed it; the feet come in for punishment!

Another example:  Someone stands a piece of steel or pipe against a wall and walks away.  When you approach, the object slips and falls.  This can strike any part of the body.

Such injuries are preventable if we wear our hard hats and safety shoes, if we use proper lifting and handling procedures, if proper signals and teamwork are used on a two-man job, and if tools and materials that are not in use are stored in the proper place.

Whether your work takes you overhead or keeps you below, you can eliminate falling objects as a source of danger by following these rules at all times.

Whatever goes up, sooner or later, has to come down.  let's make sure it comes down safely.