According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 240 fatalities as a result of falling objects or equipment in the U.S., which accounted for approximately 5% of all workplace fatalities. And in 2015, the BLS found that 42,400 incidents of falling or dropped objects culminated in a medically reported incident.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a dropped object “falls from its previous static position under its own weight, with the potential to cause injury.”
Working safely and securely with tools is important in any industry, but when the rigors of the job take you 300 feet above the ground, dropped objects take on added importance. A small falling object, such as a bolt, will generate an impact of 300 pounds and can cause serious injury.[adright zone=’190′]
Such was the case at the Ninnescah Wind Farm in Kansas when a 26-year-old worker was seriously injured after being struck in the head by a four-pound, 10-inch bolt during construction in July. Although the man recovered, incidents like this underscore the risk faced by workers.
To raise awareness, as well as to help prevent further incidents from occurring, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is readying a tool-based standard that it hopes will provide a further level of scrutiny at U.S. job sites, particularly those involving heights.
Working together with manufacturers such as Ergodyne and Capital Safety, a subsidiary of 3M, ISEA seeks to standardize the tools available to protect workers from objects falling from heights. These objects include hand tools, instrumentation, small parts, structural components and other items that have to be transferred and used at heights.
According to ISEA, the objective is to provide employers with a document that establishes minimum design, performance and labeling requirements for solutions that reduce dropped object incidents in industrial and occupational settings, explains Cristine Fargo, executive director. An industry first, the proposed standard will focus on preventive solutions actively used by workers to mitigate these hazards and address the classification and testing of these solutions.
Fargo anticipates completing the new standard sometime in the second quarter. To test acceptance and gain feedback, Fargo plans to introduce the standard at the upcoming National Association of Tower Erectors national conference.
“It’s really important to use that show as an opportunity to make sure the voice of the customer is heard,” she notes.
From there, ISEA will present the standard to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for consideration. Once a draft standard is approved within ISEA, it will undergo a formal review and approval process by an outside consensus body before being submitted to ANSI for acceptance as an American National Standard.[adleft zone=’190′]
ANSI is a nonprofit organization that sets the rule for the development of fair industry- or interest-based consensus standards.
Regulating and enforcing agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), tend to look to ANSI standards because of the rules that it sets about fairness, resolving comments and participation. Therefore, any adoption by ANSI can take on added significance.
For its part, AWEA, having recently enacted its own dropped object campaign, notes that the new standard could be significant.
“If OSHA were to adopt it, the standard is more significant for the manufacturers,” explains Michele Myers Mihelic, AWEA’s director of worker health and safety policy and standards development. “It would be helpful because there would be a known entity to a certain rating and code.
“Our membership would then benefit if they purchase equipment, such as a tool bag, that has an ANSI rating for dropped objects.”
What’s also notable about this particular effort is that it’s a new standard – not one that was made applicable to U.S. industries.
“I’ve been in the industry for 10 years,” notes Nate Bohmbeck, senior products manager at Ergodyne and ISEA member, “and I’ve not seen something like this. The majority of standards you see typically involve European or Canadian standards that have been revised to fit the U.S.
“This [program] will help guide companies on what type of equipment to use rather than having them rely on their own know-how,” he explains. “Not only will it help put equipment in the field, but [it] also will help by putting a program and a policy behind it.”
Scott Bramlett, health, safety and environment specialist at EDF Renewable Energy and chairman of AWEA’s safety committee, likes the idea of equipment manufacturers coming together and working under the auspices of an organization, such as ISEA.
“When equipment manufacturers come together to bring high standards to their products, the end user will oftentimes benefit,” he says.
The only drawback to such standardization is that it could hinder product advancements. “It might make it harder for someone wanting to innovate.”
Ultimately, having a solid set of equipment standards will benefit the wind industry and its workers, he says.
“Our employees are our greatest asset,” Bramlett says. “Providing them with high-quality tools for their day-to-day success is a big priority for us.”
How To Get Involved
Transparency and consensus are cornerstone principles in the development of voluntary industry standards drafted by ISEA product groups, explains Fargo. By participating as a member of the consensus body, you can do the following:
Influence the quality and direction of standards that have a direct impact on worker safety and health;
Directly contribute to documents that are codified by regulatory bodies, recognized as industry best practices or incorporated as part of commercial contracts;
Gain competitive knowledge by learning of revisions before they’re published; and
Enhance your understanding of relevant standards and trends that can increase efficiency and reduce costs to your businesses.
For more information, visit safetyequipment.com.