As chair of the ISEA Standards Committee for Dropped Objects, few safety professionals are more qualified to answer your questions on the upcoming dropped objects standard than At-Heights Expert, Nate Bohmbach.
Why do we need a Dropped Objects Standard?
We need a standard because there's a lot of inconsistency going on about how people are preventing dropped objects out in the field. There's a lot of makeshift solutions being made, so people are using duct tape, paracord...other things like that and making their own solutions on the job site, that aren't testing or validated by any means. There's also a lot of manufacturers that have no guidance as to how to design or test the equipment, so they may or may not be doing it.
So, what this does is bring a consistent set of guidelines to help manufacturers design, develop and test their equipment to a consistent set of guidelines.
What will the new standard address?
The 121 standard will address four categories, the first two being anchor attachments and tool attachments. These are retrofit ends to the system. So, a retrofit adaptor being applied to an anchor, a retrofit adaptor being applied to the tool. Those are the first two. And then tool tethers which is your retensioning system to tether your tools to that anchor. That is the third category. And the final category is containers. So these are pouches, buckets and other portable or static containers that are used to bring equipment to and from heights. So anchor attachments, tool attachments, tool tethers, and containers are the four categories.
What won't the new standard address?
So the standard excludes things that fall beyond the bookends of that system. So you have subsequent tool attachments and subsequent anchor attachments that are retrofittedly applied to those ends of the system. So, the tools themselves won't fall within the standard and the fixed anchors won't fall within the system. Nor will PPE like hard hats and eyewear, those have their own standards applicable to those types of equipment. The standard won't address best practices as to how to use the equipment. You should follow the instructions of the manufacturer in that regard. And hoisting -- hoisting itself and material handling fall outside of the standard.
Will this new standard be enforceable?
So that's the number one question that comes up is "will this standard be enforceable?". Straightforward and formally? No. It's a voluntary consensus standard -- it's not regulation, pe se. Now, the argument there is that this will establish a set of best practices in terms of what types of equipment to use, and therefore, because these types of equipment are readily available, regulatory bodies like OSHA could point to other scripted standards like this standard and say that is a best practice; that type of equipment is readily available and it is the duty of you as an employer to make that available to your employees. So even though it's not directly enforceable by OSHA, it will give a formal script as to what can be used, and therefore regulatory bodies like OSHA could point to things like that under the General Duty Clause or a letter of interpretation for example.