Background: Struck-by injuries and death caused by dropped objects continue to be a prevalent problem in industries where work is conducted at height. Securing objects from height with tethers, especially hand tools used to conduct work, and an increase in regulatory oversight would reduce these incidences. Currently no research on the multifaceted impact of tethered tool use exists, but they are necessary to maintaining safety while working at heights.
Methods and findings: Due to the lack of information on tethered tool usage, it was necessary to develop and distribute a survey to gather data on tethered tool usage patterns, tool carrying methods, drop history and perceived risks while working at height. The survey was administered online for selected Wind Power Generation utilities as well as US Coast Guard employees. The majority (72.5%) of respondents used tethered tools as a general practice, while 27.5% of respondents did not. The frequency of usage was found to be correlated to the employee providing a tethered option for the tool. Other factors associated with increased tethered tool usage were: years of experience, increased perception of injury risk and having a history of dropping tools. Among two dozen tools identified by the users in both industries, the wrench, cordless drill, screwdriver, hammer and pliers were most frequently used and were also recommended for a tethered option while using them at heights.
Conclusion: Employers and employees must be trained to understand the safety benefits of using tethered tools, and tool designers must fabricate tools to facilitate comfort and ease of use during work, without causing interference to worker performance. In addition, developing appropriate tether attachment points on commonly worn tool-carrying methods, such as vests, backpacks and tool belts is another consideration in tethered tool design. Ultimately, regulatory development on tethered tool standards should be undertaken to increase usage in the field.