Accidents at work are common events, but they are also avoidable. Even the more serious events, like falling objects, are easily preventable, with the right measures and checklists – as well as due care and attention – significantly reducing injury in the workplace.
Falling objects can seem funny when the object is a light cardboard box or some other relatively harmless object. But in many cases, the object causes injury to workers, and sometimes even fatalities.
According to the latest Notified Fatalities Statistical Report from Safe Work Australia, the most common cause of fatality from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 was ‘being hit by falling objects’, accounting for 26 of the 138 work-related deaths over the 12-month period.
And according to statistics published by Safe Work Australia in July 2012, injuries caused by ‘hitting, being hit by or being cut by an object’ accounted for the highest percentage of injuries incurred by male labourers (34%), community and personal service workers (34%) and technicians and trades workers (41%), and the second highest for male machinery operators and drivers (21%).
But these represent just a drop in the injury ocean, with figures showing more than 638,000 people experienced at least one work-related injury or illness for 12 months to June 2010.
The potential severity of injuries is dependant on the workplace itself:
Preventing accidents at work is paramount to establishing a safe working environment, and there are plenty of things that can be done to achieve this.
When it comes to lessening the risk of objects falling on staff, care and attention are the two main attributes that are required. But, through the relevant PCBU, checklists and measures should also be introduced to maintain safety standards.
Below, we provide selected extracts from the Falling Objects Fact Sheet [381KB] which has been published by Safe Work Australia.
You can find out more information by reading the complete fact sheet (click on link above), or by visiting the Safe Work Australia website.
The Role of PCBUs
PCBUs must manage the risks associated with an object falling on a person if it is reasonably likely to injure the person.
Adequate protection must be provided to minimise the risk and protect the person.
When managing risks, the risk must be eliminated, so far as is reasonably practicable. If elimination is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.
This requires each relevant PCBU to provide and maintain a safe system of work including:
Other control measures can include:
Administrative controls (such as safe work methods or procedures) and PPE should only be used:
Further information and guidance on selecting appropriate control measures is available in the Code of Practice: How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks [1.2MB].
Fall prevention must be considered and, so far as is reasonably practicable, implemented before considering options for arresting the fall of objects. Control measures that can assist in protecting persons from falling objects are suggested below.
Securing A Load
To prevent objects from falling freely from one level to another when they are being stored a secure physical barrier should be provided. Examples of additional control measures include:
When moving a load, a safe means of raising and lowering plant, materials and debris should be provided. Examples of additional control measures include:
Examples of controls for working at heights include:
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Image courtesy: Franco