What Forces Act on a Falling Object?

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

When we drop an object, it accelerates downwards at a rate dictated by Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation. If air resistance doesn’t interfere, all dropped objects will fall in a straight line to the ground. However, items that are dropped or knocked off high places can deflect and travel in a different direction, putting people below at significant risk of injury. This is why dropping objects is one of the main hazards of working at height and why it is essential to take drop prevention seriously.

There are two forces acting on a falling object: the force created by its mass being pulled towards the centre of the Earth called weight, and the force pushing against it in the opposite direction to gravity called drag. Initially, the resultant force downwards due to weight is small as the velocity of the object is low, but as the object picks up speed, its acceleration increases. At some point the acceleration of the object becomes equal to the force against it due to drag and the change in its velocity stops, a point known as terminal velocity.

Unfortunately, things don’t always work out this way and accidents often happen when an unsecured object falls from a high place. Whether it is a tool, piece of equipment or a person, the impact of a dropped object can be fatal. This is why it is vital to understand the risks associated with these accidents and make sure your workplace has a robust Dropped Objects Policy in place.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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