Dropped objects prevention
What are the latest trends in dropped objects prevention, and how can a company get on board with promoting the cause?
Responding is Mathew Moreau, DROPS specialist, and Baxter Byrd, product marketing specialist, Guardian, Houston.
The latest overall trend in dropped objects prevention is a sharp increase in awareness and, consequently, compliance – across all industries. Since the formal adoption of ANSI/ISEA 121-2018, American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions, workers at height, employers and manufacturers have made a vigorous effort to stop struck-by injuries and deaths caused by falling objects by incorporating a dropped objects prevention program alongside existing fall protection programs. Product manufacturers have begun to expand dropped object prevention offerings to cover a wider range of tools and accessories, and we’re even seeing tool manufacturers getting on board by bringing tether-ready products to market. Training has also remained a key component of comprehensive fall protection programs.
Over the past 14 months, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on onsite consultations have created a high demand for pre-kitted dropped objects solutions. Manufacturers responded by designing purpose-built tethering kits, pairing popular anchor attachments, tool tethers and tool attachments to fit common applications. Although the kit approach served an important role in providing solutions during an otherwise very difficult time, recent changes to COVID-19 protocols have reopened jobsites to fall protection professionals, allowing fully consulted solutions to be possible once again. Employers should, when conditions permit within local COVID-19 guidelines, seek the advice of experts on dropped objects protection and foreign material exclusion to help design custom solutions. Bringing in a “fresh” set of eyes to a jobsite often helps identify hazards that aren’t always apparent to workers whose constant exposure to them can cause “hazard fatigue,” in which risks are overlooked over the course of the day. To think outside of the box to find a solution, you must first step outside of the box itself – something a highly trained dropped objects prevention specialist can help with on any jobsite.
From a product design standpoint, we have seen a greater demand for tool attachments that use a more permanent attachment method rather than common tethering tape. Although more permanent attachment methods such as cold-shrink tubing may carry a higher initial cost, their long-term benefits are multifold. As their name implies, they’re much longer lasting, which results in less rework to repair damaged tape, and there are fewer installation errors (which means less waste) as a result of the anchor and the attachment method being integrated.
It’s worth noting that the development of newer, more robust attachment methods has been, in part, a result of manufacturers working closely with customers to gain a deep understanding of the challenges and needs of workers at height. Without their valuable input, it would be impossible to overcome the myriad dropped object or foreign material exclusion challenges faced on jobsites the world over. This again raises the importance of building a strong relationship with a dropped objects prevention specialist, and joining the ANSI/ISEA Dropped Objects Group, so that the industry at large can benefit from feedback directly from those who stand to benefit the most from a safer jobsite.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.