Previously, I discussed the danger of skylights and inherent risk of fatal falls that comes with working near them. Workers from several fields have regular access to roofs with skylights, including roofers, electricians, and plumbers. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association estimates there are more than 120,000 roofers alone who are at risk of falling through a skylight in the United States.
Falls through skylights are frequently fatal. This makes sense: floors below skylights are often substantially lower than the roof, especially in buildings with high ceilings. For example, one roofer accidentally stepped onto a skylight panel and fell 33 feet to their death while working in 2017.
Every skylight fatality is preventable. According to standards set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), skylights with a drop of six feet or more should be guarded with guardrail systems, screens, or covers. If the skylight mentioned in the above example had a proper guard in place, the roofer would have returned home safely at the end of the day.
There are a number of fall prevention options:
- Guardrails. By far the most effective safety solution, guardrails can be placed around one or multiple skylights, which can be particularly useful on roofs with several skylights. Guardrails make skylights inaccessible to workers and provide them with a safe walkway in the area.
- Screens. Covers or screens can be placed over some skylights so workers can walk on top of them. For abnormally shaped skylights, though, covers are not always a viable option. Additionally, every skylight needs to be covered individually. For these reasons, guardrails are a more widely used and effective fall prevention method
- Personal fall protection. Skylight access is sometimes necessary, such as when they need to be cleaned or repaired. Anyone working near a skylight should be anchored to a horizontal lifeline system. This consists of an individual using a harness connected to a slider, which is held together by a lifeline that acts as a safety lanyard.
OSHA compliant guardrails are an easy to install option that can be used on traditional or custom skylights. With that being said, building owners and employers have no excuse for allowing workers to access roofs with unprotected, hazardous skylights.
If you or someone you know has fallen through a skylight, reach out to the experienced personal injury attorneys at Barnes Trial Group today at (813) 251-0777 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.