The wind power industry, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has recognized dropped objects as a significant safety and productivity concern. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), dropped objects continue to lead the near misses reported by many wind energy companies, so much so that the association’s first safety awareness month in October 2015 was entitled “Prevention of Dropped Objects.” As the market matures and continues to establish policy and behavioral standards, programs and training opportunities that address this topic are emerging.
While there are federally mandated guidelines for securing people who work on surfaces 4 feet or higher from the ground, there are no such requirements for securing tools. While most organizations recognize the need to prevent tools from falling, identifying and implementing effective solutions has been challenging for a number of reasons. Fortunately, new methodologies are available that not only better secure tools while working at great heights, but also maintain the tool’s full functionality for increased safety and productivity.
Old Challenges, New Ideas
Tethered tools are not a new concept. Tethering devices come in many shapes and sizes, but many fall short for one reason or another. Some mount in a way that limits the full use of the tool and are difficult to handle, while some technicians view them as obstructions to productivity. Others work with only a portion of the tools, leaving some unsecured. With that said, the most common complaint related to tethered devices is that they inhibit the functionality of the tool. A tool can be tethered, but if the system inhibits safe and proper use, then the objective of a safer working environment is not reached.
Engineered Attachment Points
New technologies for drop prevention have emerged that focus on maintaining or enhancing a tool’s functionality. An important development is that these new tethering systems are designed in conjunction with the tool and not looked at as an afterthought. Developing system components independently is what ultimately compromises functionality and inhibits program implementation.
Engineered attachment points must consider a tool’s design and function in order to maintain or improve use when tethered. Rigorous drop testing to certify the design of attachment points should also be in place to ensure safety. Fortunately, there are new innovative offerings that satisfy these criteria. Some examples of such innovation include:
Locking pins: Square drive tools and accessories are designed and manufactured with spring-loaded lock pins in square drives. The lock pin engages with side lock holes drilled in sockets, extensions, and adaptors, ensuring positive retention. A pin-release tool is used to separate components in the system. This method is preferred over using quick-release tools because a quick-release button or collar can be activated inadvertently, causing the drive tools to separate and become dangerous dropped objects.
Rotating tabs: Screwdrivers are fitted with stainless steel tabs that rotate freely 360 degrees so that lanyards do not tangle around the user’s hand or the screwdriver handle. This method also leaves all of the gripping surfaces available so that the tool can be used ergonomically.
Strategic location: Rather than taping a ring on the handle of a plier where it will obstruct the user, engineered attachment points are located away from the gripping surfaces, allowing full functionality.
Turnkey toolkits: Complete toolkits with engineered attachment points and asset management systems are now available as one line item solutions. They arrive fully assembled and ready for implementation. This type of program reduces the cost of the acquisition while improving safety and productivity and reducing the risk of foreign object damage (FOD) or foreign material exclusion (FME).
As with any change, implementing an effective dropped object prevention program requires a culture shift. Training standards are being developed by organizations like the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). More information on NC3 can be found on its website at www.nc3.net. Also, the first dropped object prevention certification program of its kind was offered last year by Iowa Lakes Community College (ILCC). More information on this initiative can be found on the college’s website at www.iowalakes.edu.
For more information, go to www.snapon.com/industrial.