A new year is a new chance for businesses to reflect on the previous year, learn from their actions and strategise how to make the 12 months ahead their best yet. A key area of development that is often unfortunately overlooked in these moments is safety. This is an oversight as operational safety does not exist in a vacuum.

At GRIPPS, we understand that a safer work environment is a more productive work environment, and a protected workforce is more engaged and approaches each task with greater focus. If you’ve decided to make 2019 your safest year ever, ensure that you’re approaching the right problem in the right way. A dropped tool prevention plan is an essential first step towards eliminating a major risk of injury or death. However,  building an effective and actionable plan takes some special consideration.

To help you build your own dropped tool prevention plan, we’ve put together this short guide. Read on and learn how you can make your workplace safer in 2019.

Want to take the first step toward a safer, more productive workplace?  Download the GRIPPS WHS Regulations eBook now.

Understanding risk control measures

At the core of a dropped tool prevention plan is a series of interlocking risk control measures. These are a series of preventative and corrective remedies that work together to mitigate or eliminate the likelihood and impact of certain kinds of events around a jobsite. Risk control measures can be developed and deployed for any kind of hazard, from serious events like vehicle impacts and workers falling from heights to slips and tool loss.

What follows is an expanded version of the recommendations made by WorkSafe Victoria in a February 2017 document to help site managers guard against injuries from dropped tools. WorkSafe divides potential risk control measures into three categories – Elimination, Containment and Reduction. While the three broader categories should be considered in descending order – i.e. consider whether or not you can eliminate a risk before you attempt to contain – the sub-categories are merely to help with definition and are not ranked by priority.

  1. Elimination

WorkSafe first recommends examining the build at a strategic level – can the project be restructured or designed in such a way that the risk no longer exists? This could take a variety of forms and will depend on the specifications of the build, your resources and other factors.

One example given by WorkSafe Victoria is to fabricate parts off-site, allowing faster and simpler installation of larger components in order to minimise the amount of detailed work required and thus the amount of time spent by workers at heights. Additionally, GRIPPS would recommend considering if the structure can be built on site in stages such that employees are always working on a solid construction.

  1. Containment

A risk is considered to be ‘contained’ if it’s likelihood or impact is reduced – but not eliminated – by practices or tools utilised onsite. Risks can be mitigated either through substitution, isolation or engineering solutions.

Substitute

Substitution within the context of risk control is the replacement of a commonly used tool or practice with a safer alternative. Often this involves additional cost or training, but substitution can deliver outsized benefits to the company through minimising time lost to injury and improving employee morale. This is a broad field and can include everything from installation of guardrail systems with incorporated mesh infill panels that stop tools rolling free, to replacing containers and bags with more durable designs that come equipped with locking systems that reduce the risk of spill.

Isolate

Isolation involves the implementation of measures to physically prevent unauthorised or unqualified workers from entering areas where a falling object risk could eventuate. A common implementation of this measure is implementing exclusion zones at ground level to ensure that even should a tool fall and should it reach the ground, it is not at risk of striking a worker. Site managers should also consider greater restrictions about who is allowed to work at heights, and may want to think about implementing additional restrictions that limit this class of workers to people who not only carry the relevant qualification, but can demonstrate a higher degree of ability and knowledge.

Engineer

Engineering involves the development of mechanical, electrical or technological solutions that work passively or actively to reduce risk. This is the broadest category and specific measures will depend heavily on the nature of the work being performed and the environment in which the work is being done. Common examples include safety netting that partially encloses employees when working at heights to catch dropped equipment, as well as various tool tethering solutions.

  1. Reduction

Reduction refers to more individual and less strategic remedies aimed at addressing any remaining risk.

Administration

Administrative measures are educational in nature, taking the form of environmental guides and reminders to ensure that employees are informed about best practices and changing circumstances as soon as possible. Examples include standard line markings to ensure employees stick to the safest path between sections of the job site, and signage that reminds them to make use of active measures such as engineered solutions.

Personal Protective Equipment

Standard PPE including hard hats, high-vis clothing and steel-capped boots provides a last line of defence against injury or death in the event of all other measures failing.

Start building your dropped tool prevention plan with GRIPPS. Email us at targetzero@gripps.com.au to book an onsite safety audit, or to find out more about our comprehensive strategic partnership packages.