Safe Workers, Safe Rooftops: A Comprehensive Look at Common Hazards and Fall Protection Solutions
General Industry Fall Safety Standards
Comprehensive standards for individuals responsible for ongoing maintenance, including regular inspections, repairs, and accessing elevated areas.
While construction codes strictly govern activities carried out during the erection or renovation of a structure, General Industry codes extend beyond those phases to encompass ongoing maintenance and operation. This guide will focus solely on the nuances of the General Industry code, shedding light on the specific regulations governing fall protection for individuals involved in the long-term maintenance and functionality of a building.
Furthermore, the guide acknowledges that while construction codes primarily regulate activities during structure erection or renovation, General Industry codes have a broader scope that includes continuous maintenance and operation. This resource will specifically delve into the intricacies of the General Industry code, providing clarity on the distinct regulations that dictate fall protection for individuals engaged in the sustained maintenance and optimal functioning of a facility.
We Assess Risk Based on 2 Factors:
1. Severity of Injury: In fall protection assessment, the severity of a fall-related injury is always assumed to be life-threatening.
2. Likelihood: The greatest predictor for the likelihood of an accident occurring is to review the frequency of exposure to the hazard on the roof.
Risk = Severity X Likelihood: We prioritize our Risk Assessment based on the critical danger and how frequently workers are exposed.
The Hierarchy of Fall Protection
Maximizing Rooftop Safety: A Four-Level Hierarchy of Fall Protection Solution
A truly comprehensive rooftop solution follows the Hierarchy of Fall Protection, the gold-standard of safety procedures. An expert starts by inspecting the roof site for potential fall hazards. From there, a complete system solution and recommendations that descend down the four levels of the hierarchy—from simple, sensible approaches for eliminating risks all the way down to lifesaving personal protection systems. Collective Systems require no additional training to use. Work Restraint and Fall Arrest Systems both require a high level of user competency, training and additional inspection to be used effectively.
Logic Based Approach to Danger Zones and OSHA's Safety Guidelines with trusted fall protection systems
Access points are the most frequented hazard on any rooftop. Workers are exposed to this risk twice - every time they enter and exit the roof to perform tasks. If a worker is required to access the roof 8 times per year, they are exposed to the access point hazard 16 times. OSHA requires that all ladders and hatches be secured with a self- closing gate and safety-compliant railing.
Openings are the most often overlooked hazard, so they are extremely critical to protect. OSHA considers skylights to be a hole in the rooftop which is why Kee Safety evaluates all rooftop openings as a serious risk concern. Statistically, more people fall through skylights than over the open edge of a roof.
As a worker is traversing the middle of the rooftop, they have a false sense of security. Operating far from the roof edge, carrying equipment, or focused on the job at hand, it is easy to misstep and fall through an unprotected skylight opening.
The edge of the roof is the most visible hazard, and typically the hazard most people want to protect first. Proximity to the roof edge is a significant factor in identifying the likelihood of an accident occurring. OSHA regulations cite that any building where work is performed within 15’ of an open roof edge, each worker must be protected from falling with a guardrail system or other approved safety system. Frequently, a worker’s purpose for accessing the roof is to service a piece of equipment. It is important to document if the equipment too close to an unprotected edge.
Understanding the path that workers take across the roof is necessary for a complete fall protection assessment. Obstacles on the roof force workers to unsafely climb over or step around the obstructions, often placing workers at risk by walking too close to the roof edge and slipping off.
Identifying Danger Zones
These areas pose significant risks to those involved in long-term building maintenance.
1. ACCESS POINTS:
Access points, such as ladders and hatches, pose a frequent hazard on rooftops. To ensure worker safety, these access points must be secured with self-closing gates and safety-compliant railings, providing safe egress and ingress for workers.
2. SKYLIGHTS AND ROOFTOP OPENINGS:
Skylights and rooftop openings are dangerous areas that require guarding. OSHA considers skylights as equivalent to holes in the roof, and they must be guarded by standard skylight screens or railings. Additionally, all rooftop openings should have guardrails or protective screen coverings to prevent falls.
3. UNPROTECTED EDGES:
Unprotected edges of the roof are visible hazards that need to be protected to prevent falls. Installing a perimeter railing system that surrounds and protects all roof edges is the safest solution. Workers accessing the roof to service equipment must also consider the proximity of the equipment to unprotected edges.
4. OBSTACLES ON THE ROOF:
Obstacles on the rooftop, such as obstructed routes and changes in roof level, hinder access to work zones and increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. It is essential to address these obstacles to ensure worker safety and provide a safe path across the roof.