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Being struck by an object or piece of equipment resulted in 473 work-related deaths in 2011, according to the 2014 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.” In case reports on deaths due to falling or flying objects, OSHA notes that seemingly innocuous activities can have deadly consequences.
In one example, a worker was standing under a scaffold in which ladders were being hoisted. Sections of the ladder fell 50 feet, striking the worker – who was not wearing head protection – and killing him.
In another case, a carpenter was operating a nail gun on a wall. The nail passed through the wall, traveled roughly 30 feet and struck a worker in the head, killing him. As with the previous case, the worker was not wearing head protection.
OSHA points out that employees are at risk from falling objects when they are beneath cranes, scaffolds or other overhead work. Flying objects can be dangerous when power tools are used or when pushing, pulling or prying activities may cause something to become airborne. In these situations, injuries range from minor concussions to blindness and even death.
OSHA provides the following safety tips on falling and flying objects:
- Always wear a hard hat.
- Stack work materials and secure tools to prevent them from sliding, falling or collapsing.
- Use toeboards, screens or guardrails on scaffolds to prevent falling objects.
- Use debris nets, catch platforms or canopies to catch or deflect falling objects.
Power tools and machines:
- Wear appropriate eye protection – including safety glasses, goggles and faceshields – around machines or tools that may cause an object to become airborne.
- Ensure protective guards on tools are in good condition.
- Only allow trained workers to operate powder-actuated tools.
Cranes and hoists:
- Avoid working underneath moving loads.
- Barricade hazard areas and post warning signs.
- Inspect cranes and hoists to ensure all components are in good condition.
- Do not exceed lift capacities.
- Reduce compressed air used for cleaning to 30 psi, and only use with appropriate guarding and protective equipment.
- Never clean clothing with compressed air.