Employees working on the job every day – from construction sites to warehouses – often become so comfortable with their daily activities, they can become complacent to the injury risks. Unfortunately, it’s this form of complacency that can result in job site injuries ranging from slips and falls to struck-by hazards.
Struck-by hazards are one of the most common types of injuries seen on job sites and understanding what they are and how to prevent them is important to employee safety. Struck-by hazards are the second highest cause of fatalities among construction workers, but with the proper training risks can be reduced.
When talking about struck-by hazards, we are referring to injuries related to a worker coming in contact with an object that is flying, falling, swinging, or rolling – all of which fall under the struck by hazard listed as one of OSHA’s fatal four in construction.
1. Flying Object Hazards
Common sources of a flying object hazard include surface grinders, powder actuated tools, and general power tool use. To help prevent these hazards, tools should be inspected prior to use, proper work area set up must be established and maintained throughout the task, and lastly, proper personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, googles, and face shields should be worn.
2. Falling Object Hazards
Tools and materials knocked off elevated working locations such as a multi-level construction site, or even the top shelf of a warehouse racking system can result in serious injury to unsuspecting employees below. All areas below an elevated work location should be properly barricaded and secured with hard barriers, warning tape, or some form of warning light device. Tool and material tethers to prevent a dropped object add additional protection layers along with basic safe rigging techniques for items being transported by an overhead lifting device or crane. Proper PPE such as hard hat use in an elevated work location adds the final level of protection although prevention of the falling object is primary.
3. Swinging Object Hazards
Swinging hazards generally occur when materials or equipment are being lifted and something causes it to sway back and forth. The cone of influence should be identified and workers kept out of the area when work is being performed. Tag lines should be in place on lifted loads and only manipulated when safe to do so per the established lift plan. Always ensure heavy equipment operators are properly trained along with affected employees.
4. Rolling Object Hazards
Rolling object hazards involve vehicles or heavy equipment, but they can also be the result of any object that rolls, moves or slides. To avoid these scenarios, employees should properly block materials that could roll, set vehicle brakes when not in use, and be trained to recognize the hazards.
Preventing Struck-By Hazards
Injury from struck-by hazards can be avoided by taking the proper precautions to eliminate the chance of being struck through proper body positioning, material storage, and tool securement. Making sure any items being moved, handled, stored, loaded, or racked are managed in a way that will prevent them from falling, tipping, or collapsing is essential.
Here are a few best practices for securing common items:
- Rolling items like a wire reel should be braced, blocked, or chocked when not in use
- Distribute items evenly on skids and wrap or secure appropriately prior to elevated storage
- Don’t over load racks, equipment, or work surfaces that could cause a collapse
- Chain, tether, hang, or tie-off equipment and tools when a dropped object could impact others
PPE provides the final layer of defense to help lessen the impact when a struck-by incident occurs. This equipment can include the basics: hard hats, safety glasses, face shields, steel toed boots, and any other job specific gear. As always, PPE should be inspected prior to use to ensure it’s in adequate condition and has no defects that could prevent it from working properly.
Understanding the dangers posed by struck-by hazards is important in any work environment. But if you’re working on a site with elevated risk through heavy equipment exposure, elevated work, or other potential falling object hazards, make sure you have the proper hazard controls in place to prevent injury to yourself or your peers!