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Overhead Hazards Toolbox Talk

Learn about common overhead hazards in costruciton, how to avoid them, and what to do in the event of injury.

Overhead Hazards Safety Talk

On a construction jobsite, workers are subjected to many different hazards and safety concerns on an everyday basis. However, overhead hazards are often overlooked.

What is an overhead hazard?

Generally speaking, an overhead hazard is an overhead condition with the potential to cause physical impairment or injury. An overhead hazard may also be referred to as an "overhead obstruction."

In a work environment, a hazard is any situation that may negatively affect the success of project activities or the project as a whole. Most hazards are latent, but a hazardous situation can quickly escalate and cause injury, accidents, or disasters such as death.

This is why it is important to know the hazards you and your coworkers may face on a jobsite.

Common overhead hazards

Be aware of the overhead hazards that you could be exposed to on the jobsite. Some common types of overhead hazards include dropped objects, power lines, and fixed objects.

Dropped objects

On many jobsites, work must be completed at higher elevations. When overhead work is being done, there is always a risk for dropped objects to cause injuries.

Even if no one is working above you, left behind tools or materials could shift and fall, causing injury to you or someone else. Even a small object such as a bolt can cause a major injury when dropped from a high level.

Power lines

Overhead power lines and electrical wires are commonly seen on most work sites when doing construction work. Contact with any of these wires, could cause significant electrical injuries or even death.

A large number of construction workers have been electrocuted due to touching power lines with their hands or their tools and equipment.

Fixed objects

Fixed overhead objects like lights or tree branches that are located near ground level where you are working or operating equipment can cause injury or property damage if you accidentally strike them.

Elevated loads

Another type of overhead hazard is elevated loads, otherwise known as suspended loads. This happens when a load that is on a forklift, crane, or other device is rigged and lifted into the air and left there, causing a potential hazard.

The materials can include wood, metal, and pallets. The larger the weight and size of the materials that are being lifted, the greater the risk.

Ways to avoid overhead hazards

There are tips you should take into consideration to avoid dangers of overhead hazards on the worksite. It is important to follow proper safety procedures to keep yourself, your co-workers, and any visitor to the jobsite safe.

When you are starting a new task or starting at a new jobsite, make yourself aware of your surroundings and identify any potential hazards.

If you see something that could be an overhead hazard, eliminate the hazard if possible. For example you may pick up tools and materials that you see lef tout on an upper level of the workspace.

If you see an overhead hazard that can't be eliminated, such as power lines, move your work to a safer area at least 10 feet away. If the voltage of the power line is greater than 50kV, OSHA requires you to keep an even greater distance.

Use engineering controls to prevent dropped object injuries. These controls can include barriers, toe boards, and tethers.

Always wear your personal protection equipment, especially your hard hat, when you are in an area that is at risk of falling objects and overhead hazards.

Never walk under a piece of equipment that has a load suspended. Equipment can fail unexpectedly or fall due to operator error.

These are just a few general tips that you can use to keep yourself safe. Your supervisor may know other ways, and may advise you on additional safety techniques and rules that are required on your specific jobsite.

What to do if you are hurt

If you are injured on the jobsite you should always notify your supervisor immediately. If you are severely injured, you or a co-worker should call 911 in order to get the correct medical attention. If the injury is small, you may be able to use a first aid kit.

Make sure the accident is properly documented.

It should come as no surprise that construction work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. It is important that you are aware of overhead hazards and other risks.

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