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Beware – Skylights!

- December 30, 2018 by Glen O'Rourke, ALCM (View all posts by Glen)

For a variety of reasons, it may become necessary for employees to perform work on the roof of your building.  Repairs to the roof itself may be required, or equipment (air conditioning components, antennas, etc.) may need to be serviced.

Regardless of the reason, when work is performed on roofs, employees are exposed to falls.

Although this typically conjures up visions of someone falling over the edge of the roof, that is not the only fall exposure. In fact, it’s possible to fall from a roof and not even be close to the edge—if the roof has skylights.

  •  In the fall of 2007 in Northern California, a carpenter working on the roof of a school building fell through a skylight.  He sustained multiple fractures as well as head and dental injuries.
  • In the summer of 2008 in Central California, a welder fell through a skylight while attempting to secure a steel plate to the roof of a building.  The resulting injuries were fatal.
  • In the fall of 2008 in Southern California, a worker performing repairs on the roof of a building at a waste transfer facility fell through a skylight.  Again, the resulting injuries were fatal.

Skylights are neither designed nor constructed to support the weight of a person should he slip or trip, and fall on to the skylight. Accidents, injuries and fatalities to persons falling through skylights occur because of a lack of education, training and awareness.

There are two methods to prevent falls through skylights:

  • Protect and/or guard the skylights.
  • Restrain the employees performing the work.

Skylight protection can consist of a cover or screen over the skylight or a railing around the skylight.  If a cover or screen is used, it should be capable of supporting a weight of 400 pounds or twice the weight of the worker exposed, whichever is greater.  If a railing is used, the railing should consist of a top rail approximately 42 inches high and a mid rail half way between the roof and the top rail.

Restraining employees involves using a personal fall arrest system (harness and lanyard) that is secured to a proper anchorage point.

Falling from a roof, whether over the edge or through a skylight, can cause serious injuries and the effects of this kind of accident are devastating to the employee, their family and the company.  Protect your employees by providing the appropriate training and encouraging your employees to identify and report safety concerns at each jobsite.