The article below was written by Miami Construction Lawyer Alex Barthet and appeared first on TheLienZone under the title "Falling Objects in Construction." It was re-posted with permission. For more information about Alex and his firm, please visit www.TheLienZone.com andwww.Barthet.com.
Remember that day in school when the lesson was about the acceleration of free falling objects. The science teacher asked an interesting question. If you dropped a feather and a hammer out the window at the same time, which would hit the ground first? According to Galileo, all things should fall at the same rate, regardless of their weight, right? That’s a valid theory and it was actually illustrated at the end of the Apollo 15 moon walk. In 1971 astronaut, David Scott, performed the experiment and had both items land simultaneously.
Of course, that was on the moon. Here on earth, where we have a distinct atmosphere, things are a bit different. Objects fall slower or faster depending on the amount of air resistance and drag they meet on the way down.
Not too long ago, many of us were surprised that a drywall delivery man could in fact be killed after being hit by a small tape measure. But that tape measure had fallen 50 stories.
Falling objects remain a big problem and significant safety concern on all construction sites. There were over 70 fatalities resulting from falling items in 2014. From small tools, nuts and bolts, hard hats, pieces of pipe, lumber, concrete bits, bricks, debris, even cell phones – all continue to fall from hi-rise job sites and many are causing extensive injuries and property damage.
Height, weight, shape – all matter in determining the extent of damage caused by a falling object. And it shouldn’t be assumed that only the area directly below the falling object is at risk. Items do not always fall in a straight line and often ricochet, hitting someone or something not even at the work site.
Contractors clearly need to consider a number of prevention guidelines related to dropped objects:
- Educate: Reduce the risk by requiring all workers to become familiar with job site safety rules.
- Secure: Keep all loose items tethered on aerial jobsites, and have all workers pay special attention to safe storage and careful transport.
- Safeguard: Install toe boards, guardrails and safety nets on project floors, as well as canopies below.
A safe job site has to be priority one for all involved in construction, and falling object protection has to be part of each contractor’s safety manual.
Mistakes during demolitions happen. Sometimes contractors knock down the wrong buildings, other times the explosives used don’t knock the building over, and other demolitions are carried out with a complete lack of regard for human life. As fun as they are to perform and watch, they’re inherently dangerous and there should be a plan in place in case things go wrong.
Cranes collapse for a variety of different reasons. Some are overloaded, some catch on fire, and others succumb to high wind loads. Regardless of the reason, a falling crane can cause tons of damage and have the potential to kill on-site workers and pedestrians walking near the job site.
A recent crawler crane collapse in Northern Italy could have been much worse as the crane, carrying a large section of viaduct, crashed to the ground.
On January 1, 2017, OSHA officially put into effect a revision to workplace injury and illness reporting that requires certain employers to submit recorded information of these instances electronically. Companies were to submit all of this information from the previous year (2016) by July 1, 2017, but now that due date is in jeopardy.
According to the US Department of Labor (US DOL), the construction industry has the highest rate of current drug users (15.6%) as compared to any other industry in the United States. As the city of New York grapples with trying to reduce their alarming rate of injuries and fatalities on construction sites, the New York chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has proposed that lawmakers add mandatory drug and alcohol testing for construction workers to the law books, according to the New York Daily News.
I’m a firm believer that before robots start taking over construction jobs, we’ll first be working with robotics to make workers more efficient and our job sites more functional. Instead of using 3D printing robots to build an entire project, why not use them first to create intricate details and bring character back to buildings? Instead of pushing human labor out of the way, why not use robotics to enhance the abilities of our workers, to improve their health and productivity? With rise in development commercial exoskeletons, workers will soon be able to harness additional strength by just slipping on a suit.
The worst day on the job is when someone on site gets injured. The 2nd through 500th worst days are the legal battle that follows many of those injuries. Nobody expects accidents to happen, but it’s best to be adequately prepared if one does. That not only includes knowing how to react to injuries with a safety plan, but also making sure your company’s documentation is in order in case lawsuits start flying.
There’s no doubt that construction workers love a good prank and some of them get pretty creative. Our favorites in the past have included the seismic test prank, the fake bear on site prank, and the “staple in the finger” prank. Obviously, as far as messing around on the job site goes, the least dangerous as the prank is, the better.
Tracking employees instantaneously is a dream scenario for employers. It gives them tons of data to analyze to determine where money can be saved and where resources can be placed to be most efficient. The struggle is convincing the employees that tracking their every move is not going to get them in trouble or fired. There’s a balance in there somewhere and that’s the challenge facing both employers and tech companies right now.
Two of the most critical concepts of construction safety are the ability to see what you’re doing and to also be seen by others around you. Construction workers rely heavily on their employer providing lighting systems when working in low light conditions, but those systems are not always adequate.
Construction industry groups are applauding President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a measure that eliminates a rule that would allow OSHA to issue citations for recordkeeping violations up to 5 years old. The previous statute of limitations was 6 months.