Standard for Dropped Objects

Standard for Dropped Objects

Understanding ANSI/ISEA 121-2018.

It has been over a year since the adoption of the ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions. The ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 standard “establishes minimum design, performance, testing, and labeling requirements for solutions that reduce dropped objects incidents in industrial and occupational settings.” ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 looks to mitigate injuries from tools workers use just as the ANSI Z359 suite of fall protection standards protects the workers themselves.

Injury and death rates from dropped objects continue to be a stubborn factor across all industries, and the adoption of standards specific to mitigating these injuries and deaths will be an important (and increasingly visible) part of working at height.

Talking the Talk
Just as ANSI Z359 codified certain equipment categories that have now become colloquial across the fall protection industry, ANSI/ISEA 121 has also introduced new equipment categories that will be just as frequently used. Most of these categories have been used informally across jobsites already, but the adoption of ANSI/ISEA 121 as a general standard formalizes the definitions to provide clarity and consistency across all industries when talking about dropped object prevention. The major equipment categories are:

  • Tool Tethers. Lanyards or materials designed to connect tools to approved anchor points.
  • Tool Attachments. Attachment points designed to be field installed onto tools or equipment to provide appropriate connection points for tethering.
  • Anchor Attachments. Attachment points designed to be field installed on structures, equipment or workers, to provide appropriate connection points for tethering.
  • Containers and bags. Devices designed to carry or transport tools and equipment to and from heights.

Walking the Walk
Like all fall protection applications, assembling a dropped objects prevention solution takes a little forethought, and there are a few things to remember when selecting attachment points, tethers, or containers.
1. The location or type of Tool Attachment should not interfere with the ergonomics or usability of the tool. If a Tool Attachment point must be mounted to the handle or grip of a tool, ensure the tool can be used in the same manner as if the attachment were not present. The attachment point should not increase the potential risk of dropping the tool.
2. Anchor Attachment points should be selected in order of preference: 1) structure, 2) waist, and 3) wrist.
3. Always choose the shortest Tool Tether possible. While it might seem convenient to just purchase a handful of tethers with a one-size-fits-all mentality, keeping tethers short reduces the possibility of entanglement, especially around moving or rotating equipment. Bungie or retractable Tool Tethers keep material tight to the body and do not sag when the tool is in use.
4. Know and adhere to Tool Tether weight limits. Standard for Dropped Objects Understanding ANSI/ISEA 121-2018. BY BAXTER BYRD Prapat Aowsakorn/Shutterstock.com
5. Try to limit tool weight to six pounds per Tool Tether when connected to a worker’s body. The greater the tool weight, the greater chance of the worker’s balance being disrupted in the event of a drop, and this especially when using a wrist style Anchor Attachment. Consider the potential effects on a worker’s balance if a six pound grinder were dropped at arm’s length and was attached to the worker’s wrist versus their waist.
6. Like every other piece of fall protection equipment, all dropped objects solutions should be inspected before each use and replaced immediately if found to be damaged or otherwise compromised.

100 Percent Tie Off Isn’t Just for Workers
The phrase “100 Percent Tie-Off” has been around the fall protection industry for quite a while, and for good reason; there is just no excuse for a worker to not be tied off while still at risk of falling. One of the most dangerous moments for a worker at height is during the transition phase between one anchorage connector to another. To help mitigate risks during this process, manufacturers have developed advanced connectors with twin legs that allow a worker to make the transition from one to another while at least one of the legs is attached to the anchorage connector.

This same idea applies to a worker’s hand tools. While it’s commendable when a worker properly secures a hand tool to a suitable Anchor Attachment point, the prevalence of hand-to-hand transfers of tools means that—like the worker transitioning between anchorages—the tool itself must always also be connected to one Anchor Attachment point or another. When designing a dropped objects prevention program, ensure that all workers have the necessary Anchor Attachments and Tool Tethers needed in anticipation of tool hand offs that may occur as work progresses. And it’s not a bad idea to have workers who will be performing tool transfers at height go over the process while at ground level. The last phrase anyone wants to hear as a tool disappears into the void beneath them is, “I thought you had it.”

Taking care that workers not only have the right tool for the job, but also the right dropped objects prevention solution, is as necessary on the modern jobsite as designing an effective fall protection plan. Familiarizing yourself with the requirements of ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 and how it fits into your overall safety plan will go a long way in helping you both talk the talk and walk the walk.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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