What Should I Look for When Buying Falling Object Prevention Equipment?

Between 2016 and 2017, falling objects were the fourth biggest killer in the industry and the third biggest cause of injury. As such, many industries that require employees to work at heights are looking for ways in which they can minimise the risk surrounding dropped tools and equipment.

One of the key pieces of technology that many companies are investing in to address these shocking figures is falling object drop prevention equipment. An evolving and expanding marketplace, many companies are now bringing out their own options for tool connectors, tethers and tether anchors for various industries.

At GRIPPS we want to help you select the best falling object prevention equipment for your unique line of work. Read on and learn what to look for your in your next purchase.

Want to take the first step toward a safer, more productive workplace?  Download the GRIPPS WHS Regulations eBook now.

Legal requirements

Broadly, falling object prevention equipment is not specifically required by legislation or regulations. While documents such as NSW’s Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 require that a person provides and maintains a safe system of work “preventing an object from falling freely, so far as is reasonably practicable”, tethering is not specifically mentioned.

In many cases, employers are able to satisfy these requirements by providing arrestor systems such as cages and netting to catch or deflect falling objects. However, note that these are secondary measures that only provide protection after a tool is drooped. Even when they function as intended, a cage or barrier only protects the people immediately below it. A steel tool can ricochet off such a structure with enough force to injure someone located far out of the path of its original fall.

Prevention is always better than a cure, so tethering could both satisfy your regulatory requirements while providing additional protection above and beyond the legal minimum. Don’t just comply with the law, create a truly safe environment for your team with falling object prevention equipment.  

Check your specs

Just like any piece of safety technology, it’s important to determine that any falling object prevention equipment you purchase meets your requirements. There are multiple ways to secure a piece of equipment at heights – a range of solutions exist for everything from small screwdrivers to power tools and beyond.

Obviously, a small tether suitable for a mobile phone or tablet can’t be used with a heavy wrench, so the first step is determining the configuration that works for your tools. Workers need to firstly understand the weight of their tools, then purchase the appropriate tool connector, tether and tether anchor. These three components need to have the required max load ratings to safely arrest the fall of the tool should it be dropped – anything under this limit runs the risk of the tether snapping and the tool remaining a hazard.

Beyond that, it’s vital to understand that all falling object prevention equipment is not created equal. Just as you wouldn’t rely on a homemade, DIY tether to provide adequate protection, you shouldn’t rely on shoddy, uncertified equipment to protect your workforce and the public.

As such, you need to closely understand not just the load rating on an individual piece of equipment, but the testing method through which the company arrived at that rating. While two pieces of equipment might offer similar load ratings, the circumstances in which they were tested might be radically different.

Investigate potential purchases thoroughly. You need to question your supplier thoroughly on how they arrived at the load rating on the product – testing needs to be rigorous and accurate. GRIPPS has developed its own testing standard which requires testing of the item in as close to real-world conditions as possible and exceeds many industry standards.

What’s more, it can’t happen in controlled circumstances. One of the major risks around falling objects is not that they’ll strike someone directly underneath the point of origin, but rather that they’ll deflect off some part of the structure or even a vertical containment measure like netting or cages. A 3.7 kilogram tool hitting a bar six metres off the ground can deflect and travel more than a 125 meters from its point of origin, reaching speeds of more than 130 kph. That’s more than enough force to seriously injure or kill someone walking past your construction site.

Ensure that your team is safe by checking with the manufacturer to ensure that they’ve been tested in dynamic drop scenarios, instead of more static circumstances that differ from your working environment.

Offer a variety of solutions

Even if you’re just buying for yourself, it’s important to remember that your tools will be used in a variety of settings. Depending on the specifics of the jobs and the environmental risks in play, what may be a suitable way to secure one tool on one day will not be suitable for the same tool on the next day.

As such, it’s important to consider purchasing a number of tethering solutions for each of your most used tools. While having a variety of options for all of your tools is ideal, if you’re considering your first tethering purchase, just being able to get two options for your most commonly relied upon pieces of equipment is enough to give you both safety and versatility.

This need is magnified if you’re buying for an entire workforce. Here you’ll need to consider not just all of the projects you’re currently engaged in and the tools you need to achieve them, but future projects and the unique challenges you’ll face completing them.

In these situations, it’s important to be fairly liberal in your approach when buying tool tethers. With the issue becoming more and more understood in the industry, a day where falling object prevention equipment is required at every job site in Australia isn’t unimaginable. Besides that, you’ll be providing an additional and highly effective layer of security for your workers, regardless of what is required by state/territory and federal regulations.