By Dan Hannan
Falls from ladders, trips and falls, and falls from heights, like a roof, skylight, or hatchway result in serious if not fatal injuries. With nearly 5,000 workplace fatalities each year, the majority occur as a result of a fall. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to protect their employees from all recognized hazards. Building owners, as contractual employers, must maintain their buildings in a safe condition to protect not only their own staff but contractors as well. So, whether you work on, own, or operate a building facility you are likely exposed to risk and liability from fall hazards.
Whenever facility owners allow access to roof environments for maintenance or construction activities, fall protection must be provided to prevent injury. Fall protection can take a number of forms including a suitable parapet wall, personal fall protection equipment, or a guardrail system. Additionally, a maintenance worker or contractor must be properly trained, outfitted with the right safety equipment, and preferably authorized by the building owner/manager to work on roofs. A rooftop management plan is an effective tool to help manage rooftop risk.
Here are some things to consider when allowing work to be performed on roofs:
- Is the worker or contractor experienced and do they possess the right type of training to use safety fall protection equipment?
- Is the roof protected by an engineered fall protection system such as a guardrail, or will the person(s) be using a body harness and lifeline?
- Are skylights, hatchways, or holes present and properly guarded?
- Will access to the roof be controlled, preferably through a work order or permit? This allows authorization, accounting for who’s on the roof, and a review of the scope of work to ensure the necessary safeguards are in place.
- What’s the plan if someone has a medical emergency? If access occurs by a ladder or stairway can the injured person be quickly retrieved by the local fire department. Pre-planning would include contacting the fire department to discuss.
- If the roof is ringed by parapet walls are they at least 39 inches in height? This is the minimum height specified by OSHA to provide a barrier against falling.
OSHA identifies building owners as contractual employers and has issued citations for unsafe conditions or injury events. Putting a little thought into your rooftop work helps prevent injury and mitigate risk. A more comprehensive rooftop management plan can also be prepared which provides a greater degree of safety assurance.
Dan Hannan is a Certified Safety Professional for Hilmerson Safety Services, a full service professional safety services and consulting firm that educates its clients of the various OSHA regulations and the adverse impact that accidents or injuries may have due to non-compliance with governing regulations.