Beware the Danger of Falling Signs and Other Objects

A commonly occurring cause of injury on construction sites is from falling objects. There are a variety of different categories of objects that can fall from building materials to tools, however builders need to ensure that they do not contribute to this hazard by failing to maintain the site.

An example of what can happen when a builder neglects certain aspects of site maintenance has taken place in St George South London where a developer failed to inspect and maintain a sign which fell and hit a pedestrian in the head, causing her to sustain permanent brain damage.

The accident occurred when a decaying sign fell onto the head of a passing pedestrian and caused severe injury. The 33 year victim was innocently walking passed the site when the incident occurred and after several weeks in hospital she has sustained permanent brain damage.

The company was ordered to pay fines and prosecution costs but the young woman paid the greatest price, an excerpt from an article on PPConstructionSafety.com below explains what happened:

developer1Olivia Richardson, aged 33, from Clapham, was struck by the section sign advertising the luxury St George Wharf development as she walked along the pavement near Vauxhall Bridge, London with her partner on 22 March 2008.

She was hospitalised for five weeks, including several days in intensive care, and required significant brain surgery. Formerly a primary school teacher, she is no longer able to work and continues to suffer from multiple permanent effects of her injury.

The Old Bailey heard (26 September) that parts of the timber sign (approx 12m x 3m) positioned more than 3m above the pavement, had decayed to the point that it was blown down by a strong gust of wind.

Ms Richardson’s partner recalled hearing a cracking sound as the pair approached traffic lights at Vauxhall Bridge. He turned to find her lying on her back beneath the sign, bleeding heavily from a deep head wound and slipping in and out of consciousness.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/member-of-public-brain-damaged-by-falling-sign/

British work health and safety inspectors who visited that site after the incident said that it was observable that the sign could have fallen at any time. The sign was only designed to have a life span of 2 years yet the sign had been in position for 9 years and had never been checked by the developer.

Experts suggest that heavy winds which were recorded on the day of the incident combined with the bad condition of the sign was to blame for the incident. To make matters worse the suspicious sign was situated very close to a busy junction with a lot of pedestrians and near an underground station, opposite a bus station. Had the incident have taken place during rush hour when there were more commuters, the results could have been even worse.

Although cosmetic maintenance was made to the sign during its nine year existence, no one made sure that it was structurally sound and safe.

 

Man Falls 55 floors to his Death on Construction Site

Despite hearing of so many work fatalities from electrical hazards, building collapses etc. falls from height remains the biggest cause of construction worker deaths and injuries. And this isn’t unique to Australia, it is a global trend. For some reason these mostly avoidable incidents commonly occur on construction sites across the globe.

The latest incident took place on a site in Toronto, Canada after a 29 year old worker fell almost 55 floors from a building and landed on an adjacent roof.

The worker was engaged in work on the 70th floor of a condo construction site when he fell 181 metres due to a faulty clasp on his safety harness.

The following excerpt from a post on GlobalNews.ca outlines more of the tragic accident:

The incident occurred just after 12:30 p.m. at the Aura Condominium at 388 Yonge Street at Gerrard Street. The 78-storey tower is billed as “Canada’s tallest condominium.”

Kevin Raposo, who recently turned 29, was working on the 70th floor of the condo when he fell, dropping 181 metres before landing on the rooftop of the College Park Suites at 424 Yonge Street.

Toronto Fire Services Sgt. Mike Strapko said the metal clasp that holds his harness in place broke.

The force of the impact caused structural damage to the gravel rooftop. Raposo’s body remained at the scene, covered by an orange blanket, for more than seven hours before crews laid down support beams and pieces of plywood so investigators could examine it. His body was removed after dark.

Raposo worked for Verdi Alliance, which does concrete work. Friends remember him as an avid sports fan who loved heavy metal music.

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/798316/man-falls-20-metres-from-building/

When reading about this poor worker, I can’t help but thinking about how important it is to check fall protection equipment and examine before use and conduct regular maintenance.

It is vital that principal contractors develop a fall protection plan for work from heights. However a good fall protection plan is not as simple as putting on a safety harness and going to work. Training is needed to ensure it is being effectively used to minimise the risk.

The harness should be regularly maintained and kept in excellent working condition. Any harness that has been damaged should not be used but discarded.

The correct length lanyard must be used with the harness and the person’s height and the height of the work platform must be taken into consideration when calculating lanyard length.

Safety harness systems provide an invaluable assistance to workers working from heights, but should not be the only control measure.

 

Construction Safety: Beware of Falling Hazards

A construction accident which took place recently on a rural property west of Ipswich is an example of the risks associated with merely setting foot onto a construction site and why each worker should be trained on general safety in the form of The White Card course.

The accident in question occurred when an excavator operator’s leg was crushed by a tree as he worked on a dam wall at a property in the rural west of Ipswich.

The worker’s leg was broken when a huge tree fell onto the cab of the heavy machinery he was operating and crashed into it, breaking his leg. Although co-workers tried to help the worker get free, the fallen tree pinned him to the cabin.

Emergency services were called in and managed to free the man. The impact of the fall almost knocked the man out of the cabin and emergency services personnel had to use harnesses to support his body weight as they worked to free him.

They said he was lucky to be alive and had the tree hit the man in the torso, he would not have been so lucky. Queensland Ambulance Service had to administer pain relief to the injured man during the operation.

The cause of the incident has not yet been identified but it is an example of how freak accidents on construction sites cause serious injuries and possibly even fatalities when workers least expect it.

The following excerpt from an article onwww.qt.com.au explains what happened,

9-2007711-ips030913exca03a_t460Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Ripley station Officer Ian Bland said if the tree, which had a 30cm diameter, hit the man’s torso he might not have survived.

“When you have a tree of that size come crashing through, he was lucky that it caught him and he was unlucky that it zcaught him. If it came through high it could have hit his chest or abdomen,” he said.

“The group around him did quite well in stabilising him when it first happened.”

It is believed the man was reconfiguring the dam wall on the property off Grandchester-Mt Mort Rd.

The tree came through the cabin as he removed vegetation from the dam wall at 11.40am.

The Laidley QFRS crew arrived and with the help of co-workers stabilised the man.

The crew cut off one of the tree’s branches and used the Jaws of Life to cut into the excavator’s hydraulic controls to free his fractured leg. It took the QFRS nearly 90 minutes to free him from the cabin.

Source: http://www.qt.com.au/news/tree-crushes-workers-leg/2008550/

Employers should ensure that they take certain measures to reduce risks involved with falling objects to avoid incidents such as this one from occurring again.

It is important that employers identify and manage all the risks associated with falling objects. This is similar to the process that should be undertaken when managing other risks on construction sites – identifying the hazard, assessing the risk associated with it, eliminating it or substituting with something less hazardous and as a final resolve minimising the risk of the incident occurring by implementing the appropriate controls.

It is also important that once these control measures are designed and implemented, employers provide the adequate training to their employees and familiarise them with the safety plan.

 

Managing Risks associated with Falling Hazards

Workers on construction sites are placed at risk of sustaining a various number of injuries but the most common cause for concern is falls from heights. That is why this hazard is so commonly discussed when covering the topic of workplace health and safety however despite the risks, there are companies that are still failing to control hazards associated with working from heights, resulting in injuries and deaths which could otherwise have been avoided.

Falls aren’t common in the construction industry only, there are a number of various industries where fall risks are common, as an incident in West Melbourne recently proves. The accident happened on a dock while a transport company was lifting materials.

The transport company involved was convicted and fined $330,000 after one of its workers died after being hit by a falling beam. Other persons undertaking a business should attempt to learn from the mistakes made by the company, L. Arthur Pty Ltd, who failed to protect their employees by providing a safe system of work and work environment.

A post on WorkSAfeNews.com.au describes how the company was contracted to move unusual and heavy cargo on and off ships at Appleton Dock. Four workers using a gantry crane attempted to unload a 27 tonne steel drum from a truck at the dock. The crane was made up of 2 separate lifting rams which were used to lift a central 3 tonne beam.

The article on WorkSafeNews.com.au goes on to explain how the accident occurred:

For safety reasons, the lifting rams had to be raised or lowered in unison to ensure the beam stayed level at all times. The lifting rams were powered by diesel pump units connected by pressure hoses. The lifting rams would not extend or retract without the pressure hoses being connected.

To allow the truck to position the steel drum underneath the crane, the pressure hoses from the rams on one unit were disconnected to avoid being damaged by the reversing truck. Disconnecting the hoses was a normal part of the system of work.

But the hoses were not reconnected before the crane was positioned above the drum. As there was no hydraulic power to one of the lifting rams, it did not lower when the crane began operating. But the other lifting ram did.

As a result, the three-tonne steel beam slipped and fell on POAGS employee Steven Piper, killing him. The other three workers narrowly avoided being struck.

– See more at: http://www.worksafenews.com.au/news/item/333-docks-death-costs-company-$330,000.html#sthash.tAh44mqm.dpuf

The accident highlights the importance of safety when lifting loads using cranes. These types of high risk activities need to be more carefully controlled and managed. It should also be supervised to ensure that dangerous practices are not being undertaken, such as lifting loads above people’s heads.

Those undertaking the business should adopt administrative controls to prevent falling objects injuring people on the site. Controls such as installation of boards on the sides of elevated work areas or scaffolds, help to prevent objects falling over the edge and injuring a worker below.

Other safety plans relating to these hazards can be developed after looking at the sites unique hazards and consulting with workers to determine the control measures best for the situation.

 

Apprentice Plumber Injured After Falling from Height

Yet another apprentice worker has been injured while working from an elevated platform repairing damage to a ceiling. The 17 year old apprentice plumber fell through the roof of a shopping centre in Bathurst, resulting in his hospitalisation at Bathurst Base Hospital.

Although the full details of the incident have not yet been released, this is yet another case of how vulnerable young people are on construction sites and in the trade industries especially when left unsupervised.

Read more about the incident below with a post from SafetyCulture.com.au:

young-worker-150x150

WorkCover NSW is investigating an incident today where an apprentice plumber plunged three-and-a-half meters after falling through a roof at a Bathurst shopping centre.

The 17-year-old man fell from an elevated platform while repairing damage to a ceiling.

The teenager was admitted to Bathurst Base Hospital but has since been released.

A Work Cover inspector attended the accident site this afternoon.  The safety watchdog is continuing its investigations into the incident.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/nsw-plumber-falls-from-elevated-work-platform/

The 2 most important issues associated with hiring young workers is training them sufficiently and supervising them. Although trained, young people should never just be left to their own devices no matter how busy the site may be or how well you think they know the job. Young people need to be supervised because they have not yet developed the skills and experience needed to keep themselves safe on site.

Following all the incidents involving apprentice tradespeople this year while on the job, WorkCover NSW has issued a reminder to businesses to ensure the safety of these young and inexperienced workers.

According to the General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division John Watson, young workers are often in their first job and require supervision and assistance. Especially at this time of year we have a number of new workers entering the worksite that have just finished school and started working, these young people are not only new to the trade but new to work in general and for this reason they need to be protected.

Watson says that workers aged below 25 may be more vulnerable to workplace safety risks because of their youth and inexperience or reluctance to speak up about safety concerns. In NSW 12 per cent of workplace injuries occur among young workers, even though they only make up a small percentage of the workforce.

According to an article on SafetyCulture.com.au, WorkCover NSW provided the following advice for employers regarding the safety of young workers:

For employers:

Provide adequate training and supervision in all tasks

Provide a comprehensive induction

Identify safety risks and put in place procedures to reduce and control the risks

Encourage open communication about safety issues

For young workers:

Follow all safety procedures and ask questions if uncertain

Report any risks and hazards to a supervisor or colleague

Use safety equipment and protective clothing if needed

Do not fool around with machinery

Find out how to report an injury

Read more at: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/workcover-nsw-ensure-safety-of-young-workers/

 

Fall Incident serves as warning to Construction Industry

How safe are the young workers on your site? That is a question that all principal contractors and employers should be asking themselves following an incident in Sydney’s north where a teenager narrowly escaped with his life after falling 10 meters down a lift shaft.

The 17 year old teenager fell a whopping four storeys and could easily have lost his life, thankfully he was not killed but suffered skull and spinal injuries.

Read what happened from this post on Abc.net.au:

A teenager has survived a 10-metre fall down a lift shaft on a building site in Sydney’s north.

The 17-year-old fell four storeys and landed on concrete in Lane Cove at about 9:00am (AEDT).

The Construction Forestry Electrical Mining Union says he has been taken to hospital with a suspected fractured skull and as well as spinal injuries.

The Union’s Mark Sutcliffe says the boy tried to get up after the fall.

“He’s lucid, he’s in the hospital answering questions,” he said.

“They believe he may have a cracked skull and he’s going to be very sore and sorry for himself.

“At this stage though they’re quite happy that he can talk.

“He did try and get up and obviously his workmates kept him down until such time as the ambulance arrived.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-07/teen-survives-four-storey-lift-shaft-fall/4414906

Details have not yet emerged about whether the company had implemented the correct safety procedures regarding guarding rails and fall hazards but falls have been identified as the biggest cause of construction industry deaths.

Some employers are of the false impression that work from a low height will not result in injury and so does not require fall protection but this is wrong. Even falls from relatively low heights can be deadly or debilitating and so this risk needs to be managed.

Falls can occur in all industriesbut they are most common in the construction industry and so need to be managed.  Control measures must be in place before a worker starts work at a height, such as ensuring working platforms are in place before formwork is erected.

Some cases warrant more than one control measure at a time to be implemented in conjunction with one another. Physical barriers are the preferred method of preventing a person from falling from height, examples include edge protection systems and fall protection covers.

An edge protection system can be made of guard railing to be used on the edge of working platforms, walkways, stairways, ramps, lift shafts and landings and should run parallel to the working surface.

Holes or openings are often covered with wire mesh. These should not be used as a working platform. All covers should be securely fixed around the hole. Signs should also be attached to the cover to warn people that there is a hole underneath. This is a particularly dangerous hazard as many lives have been lost when workers fell through these mesh covers.

According to the law employers have a responsibility to ensure their workplace is safe. They must also provide workers with a safe working environment. This means controlling the risk of falls from any height before work can begin. A hazard identification should be conducted and the risk assessed so that a safe system of work can be developed and implemented so that accidents such as this one are a thing of the past.

 

How to Prevent Falling through a Roof in construction

Falling is a serious hazard on construction sites with falls from heights accounting for most of the construction site safety incidents in Oz. Falls from ladders, roofs, skylights, scaffolds etc. all occur frequently on construction sites, but so do falls through roofs. Often a worker’s task involves cutting holes in the roof for ventilation ducts, heating ducts etc. Sometimes workers fall through these openings in the roof, causing serious injury and very often death.

There are some ways workers can guard against these falls. Workers should ensure that materials used to cover openings are available before the openings are made. The covers for openings must be strong enough to withstand the weight of workers and any equipment that might pass over them.

After cutting an opening in a roof or floor workers should cover it immediately and leave it unattended as this leave other students vulnerable to a fall. Also workers must ensure that the cover is securely and correctly put in place in such a way that it cannot be moved inadvertently.

Also workers should mark the cover to indicate where the opening is and to warn other workers to prevent them falling through. Guard rails should be erected if the opening cannot be covered.

If workers adhere to these rules, they can substantially reduce the risk of falling through roof openings.