Understanding Dropped Objects
Dropped Objects (struck by a falling object or a piece of equipment) continue to account for 9.6 percent of the top ten causes of workplace accidents across different industries. According to Liberty Mutual’s Annual Workplace Safety Index, ‘struck by a falling object’ is the top four cause of the most serious workplace accidents which cost employers $5.61B in annual medical costs and lost wage payments in 2020.
By definition, dropped object or falling object is any item that falls or has the potential to fall from its previous position. Unnecessary items, loose or unsecured items, poorly stacked items, pieces of structure or even the structure itself can fall.
Static Dropped Object
Any object that falls from its previous position under its own weight (gravity) without any applied force. For example, failure caused by corrosion, vibration, jarring or inadequate securing.
Dynamic Dropped Object
Any object that falls from its previous position due to applied force. For example, collisions involving travelling equipment or loads, snagging on machinery or stacked items, motion, helicopter downdraft or severe weather.
What Causes Dropped Objects?
A host of factors can contribute to a dropped object incident. It is important to consider these during worksite hazard identification. Energy sources such as gravity, wind, heave and mechanical motion can all contrive to initiate a sequence of events that result in something falling. Add corrosion, lack of awareness and inadequate inspection or maintenance and you can almost guarantee a dropped object will occur.The top 10 causes of dropped objects
Safety alerts and incident reports show these recurring themes continue to result in dropped objects:
- Inadequate Risk Assessment
(failure to identify dropped object hazards)
- Human factors
(operator error, poor behavior, complacency, neglect)
- Inadequate Procedures
(bad planning, no management of change)
- Failed Fixtures and Fittings
(corrosion, vibration, poor design, selection or improper installation)
- Poor housekeeping
(Pre-existing hazards from previous tasks)
- Collisions and Snagging
(lifting, travelling equipment, tag lines, service loops)
- Inadequate inspection, Repar and Maintenance
(ignoring unsafe conditions)
- Redundant, Neglected and Home-made Tools and Equipment
(should be eliminated)
- Inadequately Stored or Secured Tools and Equipment
(no lanyards or tethers being used)
- Environmental Factors
(wind, sea motion, ice, snow, rain, extreme conditions)
Statistics show that around 30% of all dropped object incidents are related to design, technical or mechanical issues but almost half can be attributed to human factors.
What should we do about it?
We cannot simply accept that dropped or falling objects are an inherent hazard of our working environment. A system must be implemented to identify and prevent, and where reasonably practicable, manage the risks associated with dropped objects by providing relevant educational materials promoting hazard awareness, regular training, recognizing best practices and application of safety standards as per OSHA.