The five main causes of injury in the commercial construction industry are:

  • Falls from height
  • Falls on the same level
  • Being hit by moving objects
  • Being hit by falling objects
  • Electric shock

To avoid the fourth cause of injury – being hit by falling objects – be aware that objects may free fall from structures including:

  • Roof scaffolding – including tools, rock, soil, bricks, etc.
  • Fixtures, such as ceiling panels that have not been securely fixed
  • Materials that fall from over-stacked shelving

When using lifting machinery, a vehicle or other plant equipment, ensure loads are secured. Other hazards include benches and mezzanine floors that are not strong enough to bear the weight of the objects kept on them; and objects or materials ejected when using material or hand tools.

Your choices are fall prevention, having a system to arrest falling objects, the use of ‘no go’ zones when there is a risk of an object falling into an area; and, as last resort, the use of personal protective equipment when there are no other practical control measures.

Control measures for fall prevention

There are numerous measure for fall prevention, including:

  • Stacking items so they cannot slide, fall or collapse when stored above ground level
  • Using netting or restraining bars
  • Following safe load limits
  • Ensuring shelving systems, barriers and other fittings are properly secured and well maintained
  • Inspecting pallets each time before use to make sure they are in a safe condition
  • Loading pallets correctly for load stability
  • Using banding, shrink or stretch wrap around loaded pallets

Working at height on construction can pose many falling objects hazards. Examples of controls include:

  • Keeping large equipment at ground level
  • Good housekeeping – ensuring materials, debris, tools and equipment that are not being used are out of the way
  • If placing an item on a scaffold or platform, providing a secure physical barrier at the edge of the elevated area, such as toe boards or infill panels that form part of a guardrail system
  • Securing tools and materials to prevent them falling on people below
  • Keeping tools or other materials away from edges and off of railings or sills
  • Using chutes when placing debris into a skip below a work area

Fall Arrest

Having a system to arrest falling objects is of great benefit, but any system needs to be well planned. In order to put fall arrest measures in place, first identify:

  • The types of objects that could fall
  • The fall distance and gradient

This allows you to calculate how strong the protective equipment or structures need to be to withstand impact forces. Control measures could include:

  • Erecting a covered pedestrian walkway
  • Erecting a catch platform with vertical sheeting or perimeter screening
  • Eroviding overhead protection on mobile plant.