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A Public Good – The Importance of Dropped Tool Prevention In Built Up Areas

by Tom Allan 02 Sep 2020

Dropped tool prevention is something every site manager needs to be across. Whether you’re managing an isolated offshore oil rig or a suburban commercial development, the risk of injury or death to your employees resulting from dropped tools is real and omnipresent.

However, where your site is adjacent to or located in a built up and highly populated area, the need for security is even sharper. Here, the risk is not only to your own employees, but to passers-by and people working in adjacent sites and buildings.

In this report, GRIPPS analyses the unique risks surrounding dropped tools in sites situated in built up – often urban – areas and proposes a number of paths forward for businesses looking to minimise the risk of injury to both workers and members of the general public. Read on and start building a safer jobsite today.

The risk of dropped objects

When most people imagine a dropped object, they tend to picture it in very simplistic terms – from the hand of the original owner straight down onto an unlucky soul. Unfortunately, the reality of the danger is not so simple nor so easy to account for. Objects frequently land external to structures – often within site boundaries but also commonly in the streets, meaning that the danger is more general than immediately underneath a worker. This change in direction is most commonly caused by high winds causing the object to move diagonally while in the air, or by the object striking a part of the structure and deflecting off at an angle.

These facts can – and do – have fatal consequences. In 2014 at a construction site in New Jersey in the United States of America, a tape measure weighing roughly 500 grams fell 50 storeys, striking a contractor. The contractor was not standing directly underneath the owner of the tape measure – the tape measure deflected off a part of the structure three to five metres off the ground, causing it to ricochet into his head. As this contractor was unfortunately not wearing a hard hat, the incident resulted in his death in hospital soon after.

A better solution

While much was made by the media in the aftermath of the event about the fact that the victim was not wearing proper PPE at the time, this overlooks the fact that there should have been measures in place to prevent the tape measure becoming a danger in the first place.

A local workplace accident and compensation law firm noted that representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor had not indicated whether debris netting or other precautions such as kickboards were in place to prevent such an event. When working at heights, these tools can be potentially lifesaving. Debris netting and kickboards should be a key part of every jobsite’s safety system, and emphasis should be placed on these tools on projects involving extensive working at heights.

Additionally, reporting at the time indicated that the tape measure was dropped after the owner attempted to remove it from his work belt, losing his grip in the process. This tragedy could have been avoided had falling tool prevention systems been in place that would arrest the fall of the tape measure before it fell out of reach of the owner.

These options are in many cases preferable to netting and kickboards, as the latter are secondary measures that can only mitigate – rather than eliminate – the threat of a dropped tool. Netting especially is only effective as a safety measure after the tool has left the owner’s hand and has already fallen a substantial distance. This kind of uncertainty in safety practices is something that site managers should seek to eliminate. That said, it is important to note that kickboards and debris netting have their place on a site, but it’s important to consider these your second line of defence against dropped tools.

A fresh approach to safety

If you’re ready to take the next step on your journey to a safer and more productive jobsite, speak to the team at GRIPPS today to understand how our extensive collection of tethering systems, holsters, belts and bags could assist you. 

Enquire today via email at and transform the way you work at heights.

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