Considering fall protection once again tops the list of OSHA’s most frequently cited violations, rooftop fall protection is a significant concern for employers and safety managers across a number of industries. Rooftop work, elevated surfaces, walking-working surfaces, and working at height and/or over dangerous equipment can all present fall hazards. Fortunately, injury is preventable with the right fall protection systems in place. So, whether you’re taking your first job as a safety manager, or an old pro starting at a new company, we put together a handy guide that will help ensure your workers stay safe, and you can get your job done.
OK, so you need to get workers out on your roof. Maybe it’s to work on or inspect the HVAC system. Maybe it’s to clear snow or weather-related debris. Or maybe it’s to do roofing work, skylight work, or general maintenance. Whatever your reason, if you have workers on your roof, they’re going to be exposed to fall hazards—which means you’ll need a fall protection system in place.
Perhaps your roof work is infrequent—and for that reason, a warning line system seems more appealing than installing a roof guard rail. But unfortunately, this minimal approach might not meet OSHA requirements. What’s best for your needs? Let’s begin with the basics:
Your rooftop may seem like a quiet place during the winter months, but think again. Inclement weather means you or your facility manager might be tasked with the tedious job of snow removal. Working on a rooftop is precarious enough when the roof is clear, but when it's blanketed with snow it becomes exponentially more risky. And if it’s a heavy load of snow, you’ll want to get that weight removed before it has time to do any damage to the integrity of your roof. Whether your workers are using shovels, snow rakes, or snow blowers, make sure you have your rooftop fall protection systems in place before you send them out there (and, ideally, before the first storm hits). One of the easiest ways to do this is with a guardrail fall protection system. Installing things as simple as a safety railing can take the worry out of the slips and trips that can occur, no matter what time of year it is.
There are only so many ways to access a roof, and a ladder is one of the most common. So, it's no surprise that OSHA has guardrail requirements for rooftops. But you’ll also need to consider what their guidelines are on ladder fall protection. You not only need to protect your workers when they’re up on the roof, you need to protect them on the way up and down as well.
Fortunately, it’s just a simple matter of providing the right equipment, like a ladder guard, and/or guardrail systems. But consider this: you also need to make sure your team has the appropriate ladder fall protection training. It’s easy to rest on your laurels on the idea that climbing a ladder safely is common sense. This may be true, but there are a lot of circumstances that could derail a safe climb—no pun intended. Today we’re taking a look at how you can keep your employees safe and productive when ladder usage is a part of their workload.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the metal manufacturing workforce in America oscillates around 380,000 workers. And the steel industry, in particular, continues to attract more and more employees as it develops. It’s easy to see why: in 2018, global steel production shot up by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year. And according to Trading Economics, steel production in the United States has increased by about 300 metric tons from June to July 2019 alone!
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration makes it abundantly clear—roof fall protection is non-negotiable. But even with OSHA’s strict requirements, you still have some options when it comes to fall protection systems. This is because every job site is different, and the risk of falling presents itself in different ways from site to site. For example, roof slope, holes and hatches in the roof, and where the leading edge is in relation to the work zone can present different challenges. Fortunately, with options like safety railings, horizontal lifelines, safety nets, and more, you’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to choosing the right fall protection systems for your workspace.
Over the past few years, OSHA has been steadily increasing the frequency of its inspections. OSHA carried out more inspections than ever in 2018 (32,000) and recently, Secretary of Labor Jim Acosta went on record saying that he "fully expects inspections to increase" in 2019.
Fueled by the government shutdown and coincidental retirements, OSHA's overall employee numbers were lower in 2018 than the year before. But, they still managed to carry out more inspections. This year, they have already committed to hiring 27 additional full-time inspectors — and they expect to hire 67 by the end of the year. When these new employees are trained and ready-to-inspect worksites, the overall presence of OSHA is going to be even more visible.
If you’re a safety manager, keeping your employees healthy and safe is a top priority. To serve that purpose (and to avoid hefty fines), staying compliant with the OSHA regulations on fall protection should be a top priority, especially on commercial rooftops. Fortunately, there are several OSHA-approved solutions available that make staying compliant simple. Since each situation is different, your fall protection system needs to match your individual requirements. Let’s take a look at the two main ways to keep your team out of harm’s way and how you can choose the right system for the job.
Roof fall protection is important all year long. But when construction crews and facility managers often have bigger workloads during the warm summer months they hire seasonal workers to help them manage the increased demand. These workers are invaluable to the company and the project, but they may not be as experienced as your full-time employees—and they may not be as familiar with your company's fall safety precautions and the industry's regulations.
It's essential to bring your seasonal workers up to speed on OSHA regulations, and how to stay safe while working at height on a construction site or while doing maintenance work on an existing facility. Here's how to train these seasonal employees so your entire crew can enjoy a safe work environment.
The food and beverage industry is a massive market, both in the United States and across the globe. Food processing and packaging facilities, representing a large sector of this industry, struggle daily with protecting workers from safety hazards. And one huge concern safety managers in this industry deal with is providing adequate fall protection systems on our facilities’ rooftops when work and maintenance requires employees to go up on them. Installing a guard rail or life line system ensures that you and your workers stay safe at all times. Yet not all fall protection systems work in the same way, meaning that different roofs require different systems for maximum safety.
The variety of different options can be confusing to navigate — even for seasoned safety professionals. If you would like to increase your knowledge about the best type of protection system for your facility’s roof, keep reading. This article outlines four of the most common protection systems currently on the market, as well as the particular applications of each one.