You Could Be Liable for Lack of Safety Systems

Derek Tokarz

Derek Tokarz

Certified in Safety Management Group's Training in Fall Protection

You need to provide safe procedures and materials for your employees and ensure your rooftops have the safety systems to protect them. Otherwise, you could be liable if someone falls from a height while at work. 

Creating a safe environment for your workers minimizes the chance of anyone experiencing a fall or injury and helps prevent contractors and building owners from lawsuits. 

What Happens if I Have an Unsafe Workplace?

A safety manager is responsible for providing a safe environment for workers and residents inside and outside the building. The safety and well-being of your employees should be your number one priority. 

As a safety manager, you oversee the contractors working on a job, ensuring that they are fully trained and notifying them of possible risks. But what if someone falls from a height at work? Even a fall from a lower height could result in serious injuries. If an injury or fatality occurs, the following investigation will scrutinize all parties involved and may find many people responsible, including the safety manager. 

The March 2019 Case 

In 2016, a roofer was doing roofing work on a Pennsylvania auto body business when he fell over 20 feet through a skylight and onto a concrete floor. Court documents later stated that he likely tripped over the skylight mount or a pallet on the roof. The fall resulted in traumatic injuries to his brain and body.

The roofer received medical treatment for his fractures and experienced partial blindness due to his fall. At only 40 years old, he found himself and his family struggling because of his injuries and multiple hospitalizations and eventually sought damages. 

The roofer’s attorneys argued that safety measures should have been in place to prevent this fall, such as guard rails or screens over the skylight. They also discovered that there were no warnings or other safety procedures in place to ensure the roofer understood the dangers of the situation. 

After a month-long trial, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas delivered a verdict in March 2019, several years after the initial fall. In the end, the jury found that the auto body business was 60% at fault, the landlord was 30% negligent and the roofer was 10% responsible. They awarded him $25 million in damages. 

How to Make My Workplace Safer

Understanding the March 2019 case shows that all companies should work to make their workplace safer. Ensure that all employees, contractors and roofers are aware of the safety procedures, regulations and practices that roofing entails. 

OSHA Compliance and Protection From Fall Hazards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes the safety requirements and standards that roofers must follow. To protect you, your workers and your company from liability, ensure you follow all OSHA standards and inform your roofers on safe practices.   

Compliance with roof requirements is essential, especially regarding roof access. Ensure that all roofs the company works on have easy and accessible entry and exit points. Some roofs may require frequent access to work on them, and while every building is different, the possible hazards should always be a primary concern. 

Roofing work can be challenging and dangerous, especially with unprotected roof edges, high elevations and some buildings’ steep slopes. According to OSHA, employees should use safeguards at all times to protect against falls. Employees should use guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) and safety net systems when necessary so that they don’t fall from unprotected edges four feet or higher

Other sections of OSHA requirements state that employers should ensure employees are educated on fall hazards and take the necessary protection training to inform them of the risks. Written records can certify that the employees have complied with the requirements. Should the training become outdated, retraining employees in any updated requirements is essential. 

Weather Conditions

OSHA also recommends that roofers assess current weather conditions and stop work should those conditions become unsafe. Some unsafe weather conditions include rain, snow, hail, sleet and extreme winds. Roofers may also need to keep an eye on extreme heat, which could cause workers to become dehydrated and lead to other falls or injuries. Severe cold weather may cause numb hands and feet, and workers should consider canceling roofing for the day if this becomes an issue. 

Use and Maintenance of Equipment

Osha also has requirements for using and maintaining equipment. All employees should wear protective gear, including lanyards, anchorages, harnesses, lifelines and connectors. You’ll need to ensure you’re using high-quality machines and tools and inspect them before usage. Ladders must remain tightly secured and all skylights or holes in the roof should be covered or guarded at all times. 

Location of Materials

You’ll also need to consider where you keep roofing materials. If you don’t have guardrails in place, OSHA standards require you to keep all roofing materials at least 6 feet from the roof’s edge. The OSHA General Duty Clause also states that employers should provide a clean and hazard-free environment to reduce injuries or the chance of fatalities. 

Holes and Skylights

An unsafe workplace can also be hazardous to the roofers and the people inside the buildings. It is essential to protect the residents by practicing safe procedures. Openings in the roof can also cause trouble, as many workers may fall into the next level of the building or to the floor. 

Some tools or materials may also pose a risk to the roofers and employees or residents inside the building. Since skylights are often the main culprits of an unsafe workplace, use barricades to ensure that roofers don’t fall through the top.

How to Identify Unsafe Areas of a Roof

Besides the risks of height and gravity, roofers should be aware of dangerous areas on a roof. Some hazards to watch for include:

  • Skylights: Skylights can pose a hazard to workers without appropriate safety guards in place. 
  • Tripping hazards: Roofing materials and equipment may cause roofers to trip or fall, resulting in various injuries.
  • Unprotected edges: Roof edges may be hazardous if workers get too close without a guard in place. 

Identify Hazards With FIXFAST USA’s High Five™ Roof Safety Audit

At FIXFAST USA, our family-owned business continues to place the family at the center of our business model. Since 1975, we’ve built a strong relationship between our employees and work partners.  

Our High Five Roof Safety Audit will assess your building and help identify hazards to guide you through identifying rooftop safety hazards. Contact us today to speak to a representative or call us at 888-637-7872.

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