There are more than 50,000 “struck by falling object” OSHA recordable injuries every year in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Preventing these types of injuries in the workplace motivated approximately 200 professionals to spend an afternoon at the Brazoria County Petrochemical Council (BCPC) Environment Health & Safety (EH&S) Committee’s ‘Stop the Drop’ safety symposium.
This was the BCPC EH&S committee’s first safety related event. It took place May 19, 2022, at the ABC Texas Gulf Coast located in Freeport, TX. Alex Martinez from Brock Group and Michael Gill from Turner Industries presented the latest and best information available on dropped objects injury prevention to the industry professionals present. Later, a meaningful Q&A session was held with the audience and panel members from BCPC owner and contractor companies.
The members of the BCPC have one primary goal; to collaborate with each other and our community so that we earn the public’s trust every day. The dropped objects safety symposium and other activities from the BCPC are to always act as good neighbors. “The BCPC membership works and behaves in socially responsible ways so that everyone who works inside member facilities goes home in the same condition in which they arrived every day,” according to Paul Spinks, Shintech’s Freeport, TX site leader and president of the BCPC. “This event helps define what this group of petrochemical companies are about, to engage in the best, safest ways to work that preserves everyone’s health and safety.”
Prevention as the Remedy
Those annual “struck by falling object” OSHA recordables equate to one injury caused by a fallen item every 10 minutes. This level of risk is on par with the consequences of other petrochemical industry hazards like
confined space entry. Working at heights should receive the same attention. “The members of the EH&S committee chose dropped object prevention because it is a common risk that we all face,” said Dirk Perrin, plant manager for Chevron Phillips Chemical in Sweeny, TX and chair of the BCPC EH&S Committee. “There is value learning from each other to eliminate this hazard.”
Good Housekeeping Prevents Hazards and Injuries
Activity in elevated spaces will often result in tools and materials left behind on scaffolding. “An emphasis on housekeeping at raised levels prevents things from accidentally being kicked off an elevated platform,” Perrin said. “Objects that fall can bounce up, impact, or ricochet off other surfaces while falling, posing a threat to people who are working in adjacent areas.”
Dropped Objects Injury Prevention
Considering the millions of scaffolding parts, tools, and materials at elevated heights in facilities, there are many opportunities for a dropped object to come in contact with a person. “There is no level of caution that is too much effort for dropped object prevention,” Perrin said.
Consider the Following When Planning Elevated Work
With prevention in mind these steps will aid those working off the ground:
- Place nets around and underneath scaffolds to ‘catch’ things that drop straight down.
- Use tethers on tools that could slip out of someone’s hand.
- Put barricades around areas where items could fall and ricochet.
- Keep the worksite tidy, both on and off the ground. Tidiness also eliminates tripping hazards on the ground and above.
- Do not wait. Immediately retrieve anything left on the ground or on a scaffold.
- Make dropped object injury prevention part of job planning and hazard evaluation/recognition activities.
“If these simple steps are followed, then the number of injuries due to falling objects will definitely decrease,” Perrin concluded. “It is up to each of us to be mindful of where we are while at work and especially when working on a scaffold.”
Damage done to a hard hat was just one example of the harm that can come from a falling object in the workplace. The damage a falling sledgehammer does to a hard hat illustrates the potential for injury on the job caused by dropped objects at the BCPC Environment Health & Safety (EH&S) Committee’s ‘Stop the Drop’ safety symposium.