The danger of dropped objects at mine sites

Dropped objects are a major cause of injury at mine sites. Whether it’s loose light fixtures, misplaced equipment, tools, scaffolding equipment, falling debris or one of many other number of potential risks, it is good practice to be cogent of the dangers that dropped objects present in the workplace.

According to Safe Work Australia, falling objects were the second largest workplace killer between 2010-2014, resulting in 125 workplace fatalities and over 15,000 serious compensations claims.

International drop-prevention company Dropsafe has provided safety solutions for dropped objects in major industries for over 20 years. The company specialises in the manufacture of dropped prevention technology to help mitigate the risk of objects falling from height and to secure equipment to keep workers safe when in the workplace.

Dropsafe’s primary client base includes the mining, offshore and onshore oil and gas, marine and heavy industrial including power stations, all of which are high-risk industries that pose a significant threat of dropped object risk in the workplace.

Corrosion caused by harsh environments and high-impact vibratory activities like drilling can result in falling fixtures. Human factors are another common cause, such as when workers fail to adequately secure fixtures during inspections or repairs.

According to Dropsafe’s global business development manager Gareth Warne, many accidents can be avoided by ensuring adequate safety measures are implemented at the installation or maintenance phase.

“Worksites are generally getting safer but companies shouldn’t become complacent,” he says.

“Implementing safety measures to prevent dropped and falling objects saves lives, time and money. It is much more efficient to be proactive and install drop prevention barriers along the inside of open guard railing at height and other dropped prevention measures from the very beginning.”

The Australian Government implemented legislation regarding dropped object impacts in its 2011 Work Health and Safety Regulations, formalising the rules concerning implementing safety measures related to falling objects.

According to these regulations, “A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage, in accordance with Part 3.1 [Managing risks to health and safety], risks to health and safety associated with an object falling on a person if the falling object is reasonably likely to injure the person.”

Dropsafe’s purpose is to mitigate these safety risks with its product portfolio, which emphasises ease of installation and ease of use.

Dropsafe has experienced success with the manufacture of its new Dropsafe Barrier, which is installed to the inside of open guard railings to prevent objects falling at height through open guard railings, gangways, staircases, scaffolds and elevated work platforms (EWP). The Dropsafe Barrier mitigates these risks to help protect workers in a dynamic working environment.

The barrier system has been third-party tested and witnessed for UV, saline, impact, and Category 5 hurricanes — with sustained winds of 250 kilometres per hour — to ensure its integrity in arduous offshore and onshore conditions when installed along the inside of open guard railing in the workplace.

“The Dropsafe Barrier is a great lightweight alternative to heavy expanded metal and cladding,” says Warne. “It has a universal attachment system with stainless-steel securing bands that makes them strong and easy to install on the majority of industry standard guard railing setups, making it an excellent solution for a permanent or temporary installation.”

Another way of creating workplace safety is to ensure workers use Dropsafe’s pouches to retain and holster items, such as two-way radios, gas detectors and multimeters.

The dynamic energy of even small objects is massively amplified when dropped from height. A portable two-way radio weighing 200 grams potentially outputs nearly 10 kilograms of force when dropped from a height of 10 metres, for example.

The pouches prevent loose personal equipment from slipping from belts and pockets and causing potential injury or machine interference below.

Likewise, Dropsafe nets hold a similar purpose but are geared more towards overhead site and mobile plant fixtures including lights (flood, strip and strobe), lifelines, clamps, junction boxes, CCTV cameras and speakers.

The nets are simple in design, made from 316 stainless steel and tested to five times the product safe working load.

They are basket-like net structures that are placed over the top of the fixture like a cover (as opposed to being wrapped), while an attached securing cable and carabiner is secured to a structural attachment point, such as a walkway guardrail, bar or column retaining the fixture from potentially becoming a dropped object in the workplace.

Dropsafe also manufactures these nets with customisable sizes to meet the need of the fixture or asset at hand. Dropsafe has been creating customised dropped prevention products for some of the world’s leading oil and gas companies and can do the same within the mining industry too.

The company recommends its netting system over more typical sling-based securing systems, which are generally cheaper but do not fully enclose the fixture, leading to a potential dropped object.

Dropsafe designs its barriers and nets to be used in combination to afford mine site workers complete vertical and horizontal dropped object protection on site.

The other products in the Dropsafe suite include carabiners, shackles, lanyards and securing cables, all of which provide additional security and complement the company’s range of barriers, nets and pouches.

“Dropped objects don’t just cause workers harm,” says Warne. “They can also cause significant financial impacts from lost time and damaged equipment.

“It is great to see more companies take the dangers and consequences of dropped objects seriously, including companies outside of the mining and oil and gas industries.”

This article also appears in the January-March edition of Safe to Work.