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Protecting Yourself from Falling and Flying Objects on the Job

In 2017, close to 18,000 construction workers were injured on the job by falling or flying objects. About a third of these workers were construction laborers. That means about 20 laborers were injured every day on the job by falling or flying objects.

Falling Objects

In less than one second, a six pound brick will fall from an 11 foot scaffold and hit with over 3,000 pounds of force. Hard hats, which have been common on construction sites for almost 100 years, are required by OSHA whenever there is a hazard overhead (e.g., a risk you could be hit by a falling object or shocked by electricity). Hard hats must meet the ANSI Z89.1 standard, Industrial Head Protection, and include a sticker or label verifying their compliance. Practically speaking, most construction companies require hard hats be worn whenever you are on the site and all hard hats are manufactured to meet ANSI’s standard.

For the hard hat to be effective, it must be worn correctly. Use the suspension straps to make sure the hard hat is comfortable and fits your head snugly (but isn’t too tight). Before you put it on, inspect it to make sure the shell isn’t cracked, penetrated or damaged (hard hats can deteriorate over time when exposed to sunlight, heat, etc.) and that the suspension straps inside are properly attached and in good condition. Hard hats also have an expiration date stamped in them. Check to see if it needs to be replaced. Hard hats also need to be replaced if they have suffered an impact. If used correctly and consistently, a hard hat can help protect you from falling objects. By not wearing it, you greatly increase your risk for a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Flying Objects

When working with power tools, workers are at risk of being hit by “flying objects,” (e.g., small particles coming off a grinder) and the eyes are the most vulnerable. These particles can travel at very high speeds. Over 2,200 construction workers suffered eye injuries in 2017. Most common small particles (dust, wood, cement, metal) fly off of a power tool and strike or scrape the eye, but sometimes they can even penetrate the eye and cause blindness.

Safety glasses, particularly with side shields, can help prevent such injuries. OSHA requires eye protection whenever you are exposed to “flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors or potentially injurious light radiation.” The eye protection must meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard, Eye and Face Protection, and be reasonably comfortable, fit snugly, not interfere with movements and be durable, capable of being disinfected and easily cleaned. Special lenses and welding shields are required to protect your eyes from welding flash or lasers (different lenses protect against different types of radiation).

Chemical hazards, including liquids and vapors, require goggles that seal to protect the eyes from splashes or welding fumes. Face shields can provide splash protection but won’t protect you from impacts. Small particles can be flushed out of the eye (e.g., at an eyewash station), but larger particles that penetrate the eye require immediate emergency medical attention. Your eyesight is critical for your work and life. Wearing eye protection is an essential practice to protect them from injury.

How Toolbox Talks Can Help

Giving regular toolbox talks about safety hazards relevant to your site is an important way to remind workers about hazards and safe work procedures. The LHSFNA’s toolbox talk series was specifically designed to be read out loud to a group of workers and includes sample discussion questions and a place for workers to sign off that they received the information. To order the Fund’s Head Protection or Eye Protection toolbox talk or any of the other topics available, visit the online Publications Catalogue or call the Fund’s OSH Division at 202-628-5465.

[Scott Schneider]

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