When working at heights, dropped tools can pose significant safety hazards
Industries whose worksites are typically elevated deal with many dangers on a daily basis. The most obvious of these is the potential for workers to fall from their workstations. Another lesser-known danger is that of falling objects. When working at heights, dropped tools and other implements can pose a significant safety hazard. This is especially important in the oil and gas industry, where rig derricks and other elevated work areas are common. Dropped objects in the oil and gas industry are a common contributor to accidents in both onshore and offshore facilities.
WHAT DEFINES A DROPPED OBJECT?
On worksites, the term dropped object takes on a specific meaning.
A dropped object can be:
- An object that falls from a height by its own weight and gravity, or
- An object that falls from a height due to contact with an energy source.
In either case, the result can be injury to people, property or the environment. Objects to consider with potential to cause accidents are hand tools, tools or equipment left behind after a task, or equipment mounted in an elevated location that has the potential to fall due to movement or environmental conditions.
Eliminating the potential for dropped object accidents is an important part of any safety program in the oil and gas industry. And while everyone knows dropped objects are dangerous, what might not be as obvious is just how dangerous they can be. According to Dropped Object Prevention Scheme (DROPS), an object that weighs less than three pounds if dropped from a height of 30 feet can be fatal.
DROPS classifies the consequences of a dropped object in the following manner:
Light: A First Aid Case. No injury, or the injury is limited. First aid may be the only treatment needed.
Minor: A Recordable Incident. A work-related injury that does not involve death, day(s) away from work, restricted work or job transfer, and where the employee receives medical treatment beyond first aid.
Major: A Lost Time Incident (LTI). This is a nonfatal traumatic injury that causes any loss of time from work beyond the day or shift it occurred. A major incident is also referred to as Day Away From Work Case (DAFWC).
Fatality: Death resulting from an injury or trauma.
The following chart indicates the consequences of a dropped object of specified weights from a given height. What this chart clearly illustrates is that even smaller objects, if falling from a considerable height, can be fatal.
WHERE ARE THE DANGERS?
In a report on dropped objects prevention by Chevron U.S.A. Incorporated, some of the more common risk areas in the oil and gas industry include:
- Rig derricks or the drill floor
- Areas below lifting operations
- Elevated work areas or platforms
- Work spaces where equipment is mounted overhead
- Temporary or portable equipment
- Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)
- Vessels and barges
- Pipe racks
- Forklift trucks
- Poor stacking of materials
WHAT STEPS CAN YOU TAKE TOWARD PREVENTION?
There are many things you can do to aid the prevention of, or at least minimize, dropped object incidents. Every jobsite is different, with its own particular hazards. Establishing your own prevention plan that includes inspections before and after working shifts can help you identify potential areas of risk.
OTHER STEPS TO CONSIDER:
- Take note of particular weather conditions that can elevate risk
- Train all employees on potential hazards
- Create your own hazard identification tool
- Conduct regular hazard hunts
- Consider the use of safety nets and tethers for tools
- Create an easy system for reporting all incidents to help you track trends and locate specific areas where dropped object risks are greater
- Promote active participation in your prevention program and reward employees who participate regularly
These are just a few suggestions to help you get started on your own dropped object prevention program. The first and most important step is to recognize and fully understand the true dangers of dropped objects on the worksite. Every step you take toward prevention can help reduce the impact of dropped object incidents on workplace safety and productivity.