Falls through skylights and roof openings continue to be a problem in the workplace. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), falls accounted for nearly ten percent of all traumatic occupational deaths. Of this total, NIOSH asserts that 28 deaths were due to falls through skylights and 39 deaths were the result of falls through roofs or roof openings.
Preventing falls through skylights and roof openings has been an important initiative for more than 30 years. In our previous post, we discussed how NIOSH published an Alert in 2004 about preventative measures to avoid falls through skylights and roof openings. In the alert, NIOSH stated that fatalities caused by falls still remained a serious public health issue in the U.S., and that it wasn’t showing signs of getting better. Data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries states that falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the workforce. In fact, 13.7 percent of worker deaths in 2001 were due to falls through skylights and roof openings. During that year, 23 workers died in skylight falls, 11 workers died in falls through roof openings, and 24 workers died in falls through floor openings. Most of these deaths occurred in the construction industry.
The unfortunate fact is deaths resulting from this type of fall could be easily prevented if employers and workers followed OSHA’s regulations. OSHA states that employers must provide workers with the correct fall protection equipment and training, enforce OSHA’s regulations and proper use of fall protection equipment and have a detailed safety plan for workers to follow. Although there is plenty of data and statistics available to reiterate the importance of following OSHA regulations, year after year the number of deaths from skylight falls and floor openings continues to increase.
In February of 2012 in Toronto, workers were installing solar panels on the rooftop of a building. The rooftop consisted of a large area overlooking the main floor 16 feet below. One of the workers slipped on the rooftop and tried to brace his fall on a skylight, which could not support his weight. The worker fell through the skylight, severed his finger, hit the floor below and died about a week later from his injuries. The company was charged and plead guilty to “failing as an employer to install protective coverings over skylights located on the roof while work was proceeding.” The Company was fined $90,000, and the charges fell under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 25(1)(c) and Ontario Regulation 213/91 (Construction Projects Regulation), Section 26.3(2)2. The fatality could’ve been avoided had a guardrail or other type of fall prevention been installed around and over all of the rooftop skylights, as required by law.
In February of 2015 in Maine, an employee stepped on a skylight and fell through while he was working on air conditioning and heating units on a mall rooftop. He fell 20 feet to the floor below. The worker did not see the skylight because snow was covering it and the worker was taken to the hospital with major trauma to the head. The incident is still under investigation, meaning no violations are official. However, the skylight was not surrounded with protective coverings or guardrails. The mall broke several regulations, including OSHA 1910.23(a)(4) and ANSI A1264.1 – 2007 Section 3.4. The mall could have hired workers to mark the location of skylights before the snow fell. Also, if the snow had been properly removed, the worker would have seen the skylight and potentially shielded it with protective covering or guardrail.
Preventing falls through skylights and roof openings is as simple as making fall prevention a priority. Plasteco’s FallGuard® Skylight Safety Screens would have protected these two men from falling through. Plasteco skylight screens follow OSHA regulations and protect your workers from unnecessary, tragic rooftop falls. To request more information, visit us at skylightscreens.com, or give us a call 713.673.7710.