Construction Site Accidents: Falling Debris, Materials or Objects

The hazard posed by falling materials, objects and debris on a construction site cannot be overestimated. When construction equipment, tools, supplies, debris, and other objects fall from elevated heights, they can cause serious injuries and even death.

Falling materials, objects and debris

Although the construction industry is tightly regulated and requires employers to observe the strict safety laws designed to prevent injury, over a recent five-year period, there was an average of 2K injuries caused by falling objects. The most common injuries workers suffer from falling objects are bruises, fractures, sprains, and strains. The objects that commonly fall range from large items such as steel beams and roof trusses to small items such as small hand tools and fasteners.

Our goal, at John M. O'Brien & Associates, is to advance the cause of safety for construction workers and pedestrians.

Steps to prevent injuries from falling objects

Employers can change the way they work so that objects can’t fall and they can use controls to stop objects from falling. Here are a few tips to help mitigate this risk:

  • Secure loads. When lifting, make sure the load is secured and balanced. Check for loose or small pieces. Before placing a load on a platform, make sure the work area has properly built guardrails.
  • Properly move the load. Never lift, lower, or swing a load over someone’s head. Use barricades to prevent access to areas where loads are being lowered or lifted. If the operator’s view is impeded in any way, use a signaller for assistance.
  • Keep a clean worksite. Keep materials and tools away from railings, edges, and other elevated surfaces. Always stack materials on flat surfaces and secure them to avoid movement. When working, employees should be aware of their surroundings and watch that they don’t inadvertently hit or knock something off down to the level below.
  • Proper material stacking. To prevent tipping, store equipment and materials at least six feet away from an edge. Arrange materials so that they can’t roll or slide in the direction of the opening and use opening covers. Always secure material to prevent movement from the wind. When you remove something from a secured pile, don’t forget to resecure the material.
  • Toeboards must be installed on all guardrails. They stop objects from falling down to the level below and stop small objects from falling through the openings between rails.
  • Protect open grating covers. If employees are performing work on an open grating, place non-slip plywood or a similar product on top of the grating to prevent small objects from falling through it.
  • Use barricades and install overhead protective structures. Barricades can block off exclusion zones below the work area. When these are not practical, use overhead protective structures.
  • Tool lanyards and tethers. These attach tools directly to the worker’s harness or tool belt. If used properly, they will prevent tools from dropping to a lower level.
  • Carts with sides. When moving equipment, tools, or material, always use a cart that is an appropriate size for what is being moved and make sure the cart has sides.

A construction accident has the potential to change careers and your lives forever. When you want to understand your legal rights and options, John M. O'Brien & Associates is here for you. Trust our attorneys to treat you with compassion and stand up for your best interests.