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As an employer, you’re responsible for eliminating or minimising the risk of a person being injured by a falling object, under health and safety legislation.
Falling objects are a hazard on construction sites. Obvious examples include moving materials around the worksite via load-shifting equipment or installing tiles on a roof, while less obvious examples include a hammer being left on a roof truss or timber offcuts lying on an upper storey floor – as both objects could dislodge and fall onto a worker below.
The on-site storage of materials can also pose risks, for example materials stacked too high can result in unstable piles or ignoring weight limits for pallets.
Planning and risk assessment
The first step is to identify falling object risks and eliminate those risks wherever possible. Consider whether materials need to be stored at height and only take necessary tools onto a roof. Also, wait until barriers are installed on floor edges before accessing an upper storey – which will also prevent a worker falling from an exposed edge.
Hierarchy of Controls
If the risk of falling objects can’t be eliminated, use the following Hierarchy of Controls to determine what control measure should be used to manage the risk.
- Elimination – store materials at ground level if possible. If an object can’t fall, it can’t hurt anyone
- Substitution – substitute a bucket for a tool bag with a zip to transport tools between floors via a ladder
- Engineering – use toe boards and barrier mesh on scaffolding and edge protection to prevent items being knocked off edges
- Administrative – keep maintenance registers up-to-date for lifting equipment, such as lifting slings and chains. Set up exclusion zones and warning signs wherever there are temporary falling object hazards, for example when removing rubbish from a roof
- Personal protective equipment – use tool lanyards to prevent dropped tools from falling to the ground, especially when working above others. Enforce the use of hard hats whenever working underneath others or when falling object risks have been identified on-site.