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.
Workplace Fall Protection Requirements
As you’re no doubt well aware, you have a legal obligation and duty to provide fall protection to your employees. This not only pertains to the inside of your facility but the exterior as well, including the rooftop. While the majority of the work performed by your employees is within the building, there are times when employees have to get on the roof to make repairs or to perform maintenance activities. You’re required to make sure they’re provided with not only the passive fall protections mentioned above, but also active fall protection when the situation calls for it.
OSHA-Compliant Fall Protection
Your industrial facility is a busy place and workers often have to traverse an elevated walkway, mezzanine, or stairway, to get from one area to the next. Passive fall protection devices like a guard railing, self-closing gates, and swing gates help eliminate fall hazards inside your building. Likewise, passive rooftop fall protection for your employees may include a roof safety railing with toeboards and skylight covers, to name just a few. And in some cases, active fall protection devices like a safety harness, lifeline, and lanyard may also be needed to provide an employee with complete fall protection.
Inspections of Fall Protection
No matter what type of rooftop fall protection devices you use, whether passive or active, regular inspections are imperative. The frequency of the inspections depends upon the type of device, as well as how often it is used. It’s generally accepted that passive fall protection such as guardrails, a roof safety railing, and other guard railing systems be inspected every six months by a competent inspector. Personal fall arrest systems have to be inspected before each use by the employee—who should be thoroughly trained on its use.
What to Look for When Inspecting Fall Protection
A properly-installed rooftop fall protection system should be able to handle the strain put on it without failing. Even so, you can’t just set it and forget it, you have to make sure that the equipment remains in top condition. Look for the following whenever inspecting any fall protection device.
- Obvious signs of wear or damage to the fall protection device.
- Signs of alteration or tampering that may make the device unsafe to use.
- Loose or missing screws, bolts, nuts, and other fastening devices.
- Rust, corrosion, or deterioration of any metal components.
- Worn, frayed, or otherwise compromised ropes, cables, and lifelines.
Use an inspection checklist to ensure that every aspect of the fall protection equipment is examined and that space is available to note the type of defect found. Take action to immediately make repairs, remove, or replace those that are defective to eliminate fall hazards and to avoid potential OSHA fall protection fines and penalties. If necessary, restrict access to the area until the repairs are made or a replacement is installed.
Maintenance of Rooftop Fall Protection
Like all of the equipment in your industrial facility, maintenance is important for all of your rooftop fall protection devices—and this includes the roof safety railing. Periodically perform maintenance such as repairing or replacing guardrails, especially guard rails that are worn, damaged, or otherwise unable to protect workers adequately. Likewise, replace any damaged or worn parts of passive fall protection devices at least every six months. Other maintenance tasks to consider include:
- Repainting warning lines and signs with highly visible yellow paint.
- Replacing worn, frayed, or damaged fall safety nets, lifelines, ropes, and cables.
- Securing any loose fall protection devices with new anchors, bolts, or screws as needed.
- Performing manufacturer-specific recommended maintenance to equipment.
Much like the inspection process, it is helpful to create a checklist of maintenance activities that should be performed each time. Not only does this ensure that nothing is missed, it also provides a written record that can be presented in the case of an OSHA inspection.
Employee Safety Training
Scheduling regular inspections, making immediate repairs, and maintaining your rooftop fall protection devices aren’t the only activities that make your building safer. It’s also vitally important that every employee is trained on their proper use and that they’re trained to spot problems before they worsen. Your workers are your eyes and ears on the facility floor, up on the mezzanine, and on the rooftop, and you should be able to depend on them to make note of any defects or problems. Listen closely to their input and take appropriate action to mitigate the problem and keep everyone safe.
Protect Employees, Contractors, and Your Organization
While much of the discussion about rooftop fall protection revolves around your own employees, they may not be the only people at risk. If your HVAC and other building systems are located on the roof, it will be necessary for a contractor to access your roof from time to time. Since it’s your facility, you have an obligation to make sure they can perform their jobs safely, without worry of slips, falls, or other accidents. Properly installed, well-maintained fall protection devices also protect your organization financially and keep your safety reputation in good standing.
Remember that the fall protection devices you provide to your employees are your responsibility. You can’t simply install a new guard railing system and hope for the best. Preventing workplace falls, even with guardrails, is an active, ongoing process. Schedule regular inspections, perform repairs as quickly as possible, replace defective equipment, and create a maintenance schedule to ensure your roof safety railing and all other fall protection is safe and continues to remain OSHA compliant.