Improve Safety for Overhead Workers - and Those Below

August 16, 2016 Dave Anderson

Fall hazards are an obvious safety concern when workers are on scaffolds, ladders or working at heights. But there are other risks as well. The safety experts at Safety Management Group in Indianapolis have penned an article that outlines additional "dangers from above" that occur when workers are located above other workers - or with their arms raised above their heads. Here's a recap of key points.

Working Above Other Workers

You can't stop gravity. If someone working above drops an object or debris, it's going to fall on whatever is below - vehicles, equipment or another worker - with the potential for serious damage or injury. Follow these steps to reduce the potential for those accidents, and limit the possible damage.
  • Ensure people working below are aware of work that’s happening above.
  • Mark the area beneath elevated workers with caution tape, barricades or signs that alert workers to the potential for falling objects.
  • Lift tools or materials to working height in buckets or containers, not pockets.
  • Keep all items away from the edges of scaffolding or platforms so they’re less likely to fall if bumped. For prolonged work, use toe boards, screens or similar protection.
  • Don't store un-needed tools or materials at heights.
  • Follow proper stacking procedures, and avoid stacking items above safe heights.


Working Above Your Head

Working with arms raised above the head can lead to cramps, sprains or loss-of-balance that lead to cropped tools, falls or other injuries. Use these tips to avoid such injuries:
  • Be aware of overhead electrical lines and other potential hazards such as steam and pressurized water lines.
  • Minimize the amount of time spent working with arms above the head.
  • Perform stretching exercises before and during work.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Vary work methods to use different muscles.
  • Reposition yourself to reduce tension in the body.
  • Use varied types of tools to avoid constant repetitive motions.
Awareness of the potential for injury is the first step. Supervisors and safety personnel can help by educating workers about the hazards of overhead work and offering sensible strategies to reduce the risks.

Resources:

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