According to OSHA, fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers. Many of these accidents are falls from rooftops.

Construction workers are often working near unprotected roof edges, scaffolds, ladders, open shafts and more, which can expose them to potential fall hazards.

Fall Protection when Working on Rooftops

Fall protection is required for anyone working on roofs or other areas where the distance to the ground or another surface is more than 6 feet. OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection in one of three ways before work begins.

A personal fall arrest system is one option of protection that OSHA requires for workers on construction sites who are exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more. This is designed to “catch” a person once he or she falls to minimize the potential for severe injury.

A second option is installing safety nets. Employers who choose to use a safety net system must comply with provisions as spelled out by OSHA. Whereas the personal fall system is an active type of fall prevention, a safety net system is a “passive” type of fall prevention designed to break a fallen worker’s fall by catching him or her in the net.

The third option is placing guardrails around the hazard area, one with toprail, midrail and toeboard is a fall prevention system that will prevent a worker from falling to a lower level. Guardrails provide a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard; however, there are provisions that must be followed for this fall prevention system, too.

Rooftop Fall Prevention Safety Tips

  • Cover or guard floor holes as soon as they are created during construction or any openings or holes found as work progresses.
  • Construct all floor hole covers so they will support two times the weight of employees, equipment and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
  • Best practice is to use a fall prevention system such as guardrails rather than fall protection system because they provide more positive safety means.
  • Be sure to check all equipment before using it to ensure it does not need repair. If it does, make sure that it is removed from service until it has been fixed.

Why Build Safety into the Job Site

John LeBlanc talks about what happened when one of his workers died from a fall on a job site. The death had a profound effect on LeBlanc and led to a complete restructuring of his company’s safety procedures.

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