How Easy is it to Fall From the Rooftop?

woman has fallen off of roof

How easy is it to fall from a roof? OSHA doesn’t want you to find out. It launched the 1910 Walking-Working Surfaces Standard in January, a regulation that gives building owners and employers more flexibility in the fall protection method they choose. This new standard also makes some significant changes regarding fixed ladders, training and rope descent systems. OSHA also led its fourth National Fall Prevention Safety Stand Down event last month, focused on fall prevention education and training for construction and general industry. The effort is critical: falls accounted for more than 38 percent of deaths on the job in 2015 alone, and that’s just in construction.

Why are falls so prevalent? A wide range of people are up on the roof (outside of roofing contractors), and they have varying degrees of rooftop safety knowledge:

  • Maintenance workers cleaning gutters or shoveling snow
  • HVAC techs servicing heaters, air conditioners, and vents
  • Security specialists monitoring surveillance cameras
  • Window washers descending on roofs

Rooftop hazards

It may not seem worth the effort to set up fall protection when a quick fix is required, but under the right conditions, like wet surfaces, windy days and jagged sheathing, your balance could be thrown off. In fact, without the proper use of guardrails, personal fall arrest or safety system, anything could be a hazard, especially:

  • Open hatches at access points
  • Doorstop catches
  • Unsecured extension ladders
  • Dim lighting
  • Leaves creating a slippery surface
  • Exposed edges and uneven seams
  • Sloped roofs
  • Tall, unstable equipment and skylights unable to support weight

Miscalculations and risky judgment calls

Under or over-estimations are as dangerous as physical obstructions. Believing you will be safe on an unguarded elevated area or failing to hook a harness to an anchor point can backfire, tragically. The shock and psychological trauma that can grip the fallen and/or bystanding workers can cripple a workforce and delay recovery.

Plan for the job and prioritize. It sets the tone and confirms the crew is on the same page when you walk them through the job processes, tasks, project managers and safety equipment needed for each task ahead of time. Efficiency and production are a factor of business, but they can’t take precedence over safety.

Supply equipment and direct the path. Taking control of an environment invites less risk. Building owners and employers lessen liability by providing compliant gear and marking a clear passage to the workspace.

Train the team. A scenario when workers lack knowledge, skill or understanding of safety principles and equipment is a ticking time bomb. Employers must train workers in recognizing hazards on the job–for everyone’s sake.

How can you best train and outfit your team? We’ll hook you up. Contact us today!

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