You've invested in the best OSHA approved rooftop fall protection for your facility—including guardrails around roof openings, covers on all the skylights, and roof safety railing around the perimeter. You’re ready to sit back and relax, knowing your roof is as safe as possible for your employees. Congrats on a job well done, but before you get too comfy, remember—installing fall safety equipment and systems is just the beginning. To fully protect your employees and provide a safe work environment, you have to set up a regular inspection and maintenance schedule. These crucial steps will also help you avoid possible OSHA fines and costly repairs in the future.
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:
Winter is in full swing, which means there’s a good chance you've got the thermostat cranked up at your facility. If you've got the heat on, there’re a few things you should check up on to make sure your HVAC system is good to go all season long. Your system likely run all summer, and now that you transitioned to wintertime, it should be inspected, maintained, and/or repaired. You’ll also need to make sure your heat is in good working order before as the temperature dips. Here’s what should be on your radar:
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.
OSHA makes it clear that roof safety is non-negotiable: "Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems." However, how you protect workers from falling can vary depending on the circumstances. Roof lifeline systems are one of your fall protection options.
Roof fall protection is important no matter where you live, but rooftop risks vary depending upon your region and its weather conditions. How you train your employees, identify dangers, and manage those risks will vary, too.
OSHA lists numerous requirements that apply to all situations; for example: "The employer must ensure each employee on a runway or similar walkway is protected from falling 4 feet (1.2 m) or more to a lower level by a guardrail system.”
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.
An attractive campus starts with beautiful buildings. Even a cursory glance at Architectural Digest’s 50 Most Beautiful Colleges in America makes it abundantly clear: campus architecture—whether classic or contemporary—plays a large part in school perception and culture. It’s no wonder universities and other institutions of higher education spend so much time and money maintaining and restoring their original buildings. Careful consideration is given to new construction and how it fits in, both with the landscape and the existing structures. Planners and designers want to create a unified appearance on campus, an admirable challenge on campuses that likely includes buildings erected over the course of several decades or centuries! Because of this, safety railings and rooftop fall protections might be the furthest thing from their minds.
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.