Notes From a Site Engineer 2

Topic of the Day: 'Falling Over'

Photo Credit: David McCulloch 

I'm clumsy. I'm not clownishly clumsy to the point no one trusts me to carry things. I'm not cute clumsy either. I'm big, blundering, blunt instrument clumsy. I have always blamed it on being tall, it often feels like my brain doesn't really know what my feet are doing. So, I have a tendency to blunder into things, and this blundering is both metaphorical and literal. I feel, however, I cannot be alone in this. There must be others who venture on site who are the same way inclined. 

There are many factors which may contribute to the likelihood of falling over on site - your natural clumsiness (or absence thereof, if you're lucky), your PPE (how well it fits and, resultantly, how cumbersome it is), the site surface and condition, and the weather (poor visibility, high rainfall, snow and low temperatures...all increase the hazard). You may be on a site, as I was yesterday, where there are few discernible paths and tracks of any substance and you are walking over very uneven terrain. 

Walk carefully and be aware is not just a phrase you should use on a risk assessment, it is totally a thing you should actually do. It has taken me lots of bruises and a significant loss of dignity over the years to figure that out. I have tripped over and landed on my face, back, knees, hips and hands a number of times. The most recent of these incidents was just yesterday, in fact. Yesterday, apart from my pride, I was uninjured. I was more pissed off that I fell onto my hands and knees into wet grass and wasn't wearing my waterproof trousers. One day two years ago, I wasn't so lucky and I was injured. I tripped and fell whilst walking along the side of a haul road on site. The site surface was muddy and concealed a piece of wire that I caught my foot on. I landed on my right knee and hand, and subsequently I had to go to A+E to have a precautionary X-ray to ensure my hand wasn't broken. I spent a week in a thumb splint to allow my hand to "heal" as there was no obvious fracture. Two years on, from time to time, my thumb still aches from over-use. 

So, my advice, if it can be called that in this case, is as follows: 

1. If you are uninjured, bounce.

Get back up, dust yourself off and laugh about it. Taking it, and yourself, too seriously will just increase the ribbing from your site colleagues. 

2. If you are injured, seek help.

Scream and shout if you have to, but get yourself to someone who can help you. Do not be afraid to ask to go to hospital if you feel it is necessary — if there is any, and I mean any, chance of concussion, head injury or any bone fracture get your backside to A+E and get yourself seen. This is a case of better safe than sorry. Do not be afraid of being seen as "overreacting." If you are worried and you are in pain — step up and say so. I know of two people, myself included, who have suffered permanent (in one case life-altering) injuries on site that are only as bad as they are in part because they did not seek help soon enough. 

3. Report everything through the necessary channels, both with the company or contractor you are on site with and your own employer.

Even if you are not injured, most significant falls should be recorded as "near-misses" and learned from as necessary. I cannot emphasise this one enough, to be honest, as lessons cannot be learned from incidents that no one knows about. 

4. Mud can be deceptively deep and should not be trusted.

If you are not sure, then test it before you put your full weight on it. Unfortunately, sometimes, even this doesn't work. The only true solution is to take another route, if that's even possible. 

4a) Mud and muddy puddles can obscure potholes or similar.

Please refer to my "falling over" story above for evidence of this fact. Be very careful around dark or cloudy water of any kind. 

5. Walking with your eyes down in a hard hat can cause you to miss things at head height.

Do not ask how I know this. Either make sure you have a hard hat with a shortened peak or look up every now and again. Trust me. 

6. This may be obvious, but if you fall and it's muddy - wash your mud covered PPE.

This is not just because walking around caked in mud is disgusting, it's for genuine safety reasons — mud can obscure the colour and reflective bands and make you less visible. 

7. Walk carefully and be aware.

It is worth repeating. It should be your mantra! 

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Notes From a Site Engineer 2