Falling or tipping drywall sheets or panels


Problem:

Workers who move and install drywall or panels may face hazards from falling or tipping drywall sheets or panels.


Risk Description:

Collapsing drywall sheets and panels can crush workers which may cause traumatic injuries or fatal crushes.

Unsecured or improperly stored/handled drywall sheets or panels can easily become unstable.  A stack of drywall can weigh more than a thousand pounds yet may require only a few pounds of pulling force to tip over.  When a stack tips forward, the momentum generated by the force gravity can substantially increase the striking force of the stack by several fold, resulting in serious and sometimes fatal accidents by its crushing effects.


Level of Risk:

Between 1992 and 2005, being struck by an object (a subcategory of contact with objects and equipment) was one of the highest ranking causes of work-related deaths.  "Contact with objects" includes being struck by an object, struck against an object, caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and caught in or crushed by collapsing materials.  In 2005, following fall and transportation injuries, contact with objects was the third most among the distribution of leading causes of deaths accounting for 20 percent. 

Distribution of leading causes of deaths from injuries in construction, 2005

Moreover, being struck by an object was the leading cause of non-fatal injuries that resulted in days away from work which accounted for over one-third in 2005.

Distribution of leading causes of nonfatal injuries and illnesses with days away from work in construction, 2005

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1992-2005 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.  Calculations by CPWR Data Center.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1992-2005 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, Tables R64 and R75, www.bls.gov/iif/oshcdnew.htm (Accessed November 2007).


Assessment Info:

Assessment of coming in contact with collapsing drywall sheets and panels should be an integral part of the site safety planning process.

To assess the likelihood of being crushed, here is a list of general items to consider when performing construction tasks near stacks of drywalls or panels:

  • Are materials secured such that they are stored in tiers by stacking, racking, blocking or interlocking to prevent from falling?
  • Are aisles and passageways clear?
  • Are there clear signs posted indicating the risk of collapsing drywall/panel stacks?

Regulations & Standards:

OSHA standard 1926 Subpart H, titled Materials Handling, Storage, Use, and Disposal, in safety and health regulations for construction, must be in place.  All materials stored in tiers shall be stacked, racked, blocked, interlocked, or otherwise secured to prevent sliding, falling or collapse.  Also, aisles and passageways shall be kept clear to provide for the free and safe movement of material handling equipment or employees.

Federal OSHA Standards are enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor in 26 states. There are currently 22 states and jurisdictions operating complete State plans (covering both the private sector and state and local government employees) and 5 - Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and the Virgin Islands - which cover public employees only. If you are working in one of those states or jurisdictions you should ensure that you are complying with their requirements.