I've just returned home from another great expo at ASSP, American Society of Safety Professionals in San Antonio, Texas. All of us on the ISEA Committee were pleased to see so much enthusiasm around dropped object prevention this year and the Riverwalk never disappoints. Can they put some guards up around the river? I almost fell in at least twice!
While I was there, many professionals shared with me their dropped object stories and why they were looking for tool tethering solutions. I've selected 3 stories that really spoke to me and have captured them below.
- A project manager told me a story about one of his guys working from the scaffolding on the 20th floor of a new high rise building. He finished his task with a spud wrench and attempted to put it away in his tool belt. He missed. Something already in the packed tool pouch got in the way and the spud wrench dropped free, bounced off the scaffold floor and fell all 20 stories to the ground striking a worker in the shoulder. That man survived, but will most likely be out of work a long time recovering and may be permanently disabled as a result of the drop. Now a believer in the need for tool tethering and that even the best workers can have an accident, he was looking for the right solution for his teams.
- A glazier told me he was installing windows 17 floor up using a screwdriver to seat a glass pane. As the pane popped into place, it “bucked” the screwdriver out of his hands. Now they had taken the “state of the art” precautions and conned off the area below where he was working to create an exclusion zone and ensure if something dropped it didn’t strike someone. As the gentleman who told me his story put it, “and them Murphy showed up”. A woman driving a Buick pulled over into the work zone to ask for directions. While she sat there, car idling trying to get someone’s attention, the screwdriver struck the hood of the car, punching clean through the sheet metal all the way up to the handle. Not a bit of steel could be seen. Nobody got hurt (other than the Buick) luckily, but next time “Murphy Show’s Up” circumstances might be different. And if you're worried about the Buick don't be, the construction company picked up the tab for repair and a new paint job. Rumor has it to keep the woman from claiming distress in a courtroom they repainted the whole car, not just the hood.
- Finally, I have to share a more somber story. The details were closely guarded as the person telling it to me was worried about a pending lawsuit. All she was able to share with me was a worker at height dropped a wrench and it struck a teammate on the ground. She wouldn’t discuss how the drop occurred, what passive measures they had in place (barriers, exclusion zones, etc.) or what happened to the worker that was struck. All she wanted to know is could our tethers stop the wrench from falling “next time” and was in a big hurry to get tethers out to her work crews. Now we may never know what was the outcome for the worker (or the workers family) but she was definitely scrambling to put new safety measures in place after a serious incident that at best case lost a valued employee to serious injury. I won’t speculate about the worst case.
What do these stories have in common? In all 3 cases, they thought they were doing their jobs safely and didn't need tool tethering. It's fair to say they may not have even known about tool tethering as an option to protect their teammates and friends below. Regardless of their intent, they were not being proactive, and PREVENTING drops with serious consequences.
So my question to my readers is this, are you going to wait for a spud wrench to strike someone who can't be replaced, or will do you do something now and prevent it?