It’s becoming increasingly common for those who work at height to tether their tools with lanyards in order to avoid dropping them. IN times gone by, workers would simply strap on their tool belts and load them with the necessary tools to get the job done. Nowadays, we have access to specially designed tool bags and holsters which can be secured to our harnesses (or our person) as a result of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 2005).
Tethering tools is recommended because there have been so many injuries that have occurred as a result of dropped tools. While hard hats have been in common use on building sites for many years, they may provide little protection from a dropped tool due to simple physics. As an object falls towards the ground, it gathers speed exponentially, meaning that the further it falls, the more force it lands with. This acceleration force can prove deadly for those standing below a dropped tool, despite the fact that they’re wearing a hard hat. The average screwdriver dropped from a height of just 14 metres will hit the ground with an impact weight of nearly 74 kg – that sort of weight at a fast enough speed is enough to kill.
Legislation here in the UK stipulates that work at height must be carried out in the safest way possible – this means that it must be considered whether the work could be carried out more safely from ground level. When tools are transferred from an individual worker to a tool bag or box, proper transfer procedures should be followed to make sure that tools are secure at all times. A failure to do so could result in prosecution.
Tool tethering is also an effective method of protecting tools from damage. We’ve already looked at the impact involved when dropping a screwdriver, which is a relatively small and lightweight tool. Imagine how much worse the impact would be if a cordless drill were dropped from the same height. If it manages not to hit anybody on impact, that’s brilliant, but the drill itself would never survive the fall intact and would need replacing. Buying a lanyard designed to tether tools is a lot less expensive than buying a new drill.
Any company that owns a stock of tools faces quite a potential monetary loss if tools are not tethered. The more workers and tools you have, the greater the potential for financial loss if the tools are not automatically tethered when taken to the worksite.
While the law in the UK does not specifically require tool tethering when working at height, it does require that workers at height must take every reasonable measure to prevent dropped tools and the law will view tool tethering as a reasonable measure.