There are many safety measures in the construction industry that are basic and obvious enough that you likely don’t need to be made aware of them. Hard hats to avoid head trauma and safety glasses to protect your eyes, for example. 


However, when you’re on the job, there’s a good chance that you’re doing some things that may not seem unsafe, yet could cause some serious problems. 


One safety practice that often gets overlooked is tethering your tools. The question is: When should you actually be tethering your tools, and when is the practice unnecessary?


We’ve written this article specifically to answer that question and cover some of the safety hazards associated with leaving your tools untethered. 


When Is Tool Tethering Necessary?

Obviously, tethering your tools isn’t necessary when you’re on the ground. Tool tethering is a safety practice used to avoid injury or even fatalities from tools and other objects falling from great heights. In fact, in 2019, the US Bureau of Labor recorded 241 deaths from falling objects or equipment. 


The question is: How high is too high to go without tethering your tools?


Well, a general rule of thumb is that the higher up you are, the more dangerous even the smallest of tools can be. 


Take an adjustable wrench, for example. It’s got some weight to it but typically isn’t seen as an overly dangerous tool. Once you drop it from 30 feet up, however, it can make filing an injury report necessary. 


At 60 feet, that same wrench will likely cause a trip to the emergency room. 

90 feet is where things get really deadly. A tool under one pound dropping from that extreme height can be fatal. 


Male architect at a construction site looking happy

Causing bodily harm isn’t the only reason to tether your tools, either. There are a few other scenarios that call for tool tethering, such as:

  • Working over machinery that could be damaged by falling tools
  • Working above an area that could be dangerous if a tool falls into it
  • When you need to make sure you leave no tools behind 
  • Avoiding damage to essential tools from drops

There are also two different procedures that aim to control tools or other materials being left behind in dangerous areas: FOD (Foreign Object Debris) and FME (Foreign Material Exclusion). Tethering your tools is a necessary safety precaution to stay compliant with these two procedures and keep foreign objects out of areas where they could become a safety hazard or could damage property. 


Conditions That Can Cause Dropped Tools

Some people might say: “I don’t need to tether, I’ve got a firm grip. I won’t drop my tools.”

Thinking this way can be incredibly dangerous.


There’s more to dropping tools than simply losing your grip. Even if you’re focused and grip everything tightly, there are several different elements that can facilitate the dropping of a tool when not tethered, including:

  • Inclement weather
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Interference from other equipment
  • A sudden loss of balance

While tethering your tools may seem like a burden for someone who has never dropped a tool before, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Knowing when to tether your tools is one thing, but actually choosing to do so means fewer injuries, and in some cases, prevents fatalities.



To summarize, tool tethering as a safety precaution may not be as obvious as wearing a hard hat or safety glasses, but with the number of injuries and deaths caused by falling tools, it’s a practice that needs to be taken seriously. 


There are many different conditions that can cause dropped tools, ranging from weather to simple fatigue. Why take that chance? Now that you know when to tether your tools, put it into practice, and ensure that your job sites are always as safe as they can be. 


Need Additional Job Site Safety Advice?

If you're looking for tips to build a work at heights safety program for your job site, check out our free guide to creating a safety plan.

Get the Guide