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.
Cover OSHA Regulations
All employees should be aware of OSHA roof fall protection regulations, even your seasonal hires. You might think that temporary workers should learn these regulations on their own. Or, perhaps you think that they simply won’t be on the job long enough to warrant the investment of time. Whichever line of thought applies to you, it’s unfortunately untrue. You are responsible for your employees’ safety, regardless of if they are on the job for a day or for the life span of their career. Establishing a culture of safety shows all your employees that you are committed to their well-being — and expresses an expectation of safety from everyone involved.
When it comes to covering the regulations, its best to start with the basics. Fall protection, like safety guardrails, must be provided at height, but there are different regulations in place for different industries:
“OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations.”
Work surfaces must be structurally sound and able to withstand the weight of the workers and equipment, and fall protection must also be in place around any holes in the work surface (such as skylights).
When in doubt about which standard to follow (for example, if you’re unsure whether or not your site would be classified as a construction site), it’s always better to go with the most conservative standard to avoid penalties for safety violations and to best protect your people. You can’t take too many precautions when dealing with workplace safety, but you can take too few.
Teach your seasonal employees what they can expect in terms of safety, and then provide those safety measures for them.
Provide OSHA-Compliant Safety Equipment
Every maintenance area or construction site is different and may require different precautions.
Warning Line Systems: Warning lines create a visual reminder to take precaution around hazardous areas. They can be used in conjunction with personal fall-arrest, safety net, safety monitoring, or guardrail systems. OSHA has specific guidelines for the use of warning line systems, which vary depending on the type of work surface and whether the warning line is used alone (when permitted) or with other safety equipment. Permanent warning line systems can be put in place to avoid ongoing set-up, take-down, and replacement.
Safety Guardrails: These should be used on the edge of the roof, around holes in the roof or areas not meant to support the weight of a human and/or equipment, and around any equipment that may pose a hazard. This not only gives your workers a visual reminder to avoid getting too close to the edge, but creates a barrier that prevents falls from ever happening. Safety guardrails alone can go a long way in preventing accidents, and they can be used with other safety measures to even further increase safety.
Horizontal Lifeline: Via a lanyard and harness, workers are attached to the horizontal lifeline, which runs parallel to the edge of the roof or another hazard. This allows employees to work freely knowing they will be stopped by the lanyard if they fall. With seasonal workers, you’ll need to make sure you have enough for everyone that will be placed in harm’s way. They will also need to be trained on how to inspect them for wear and tear as well as deploy them.
New and seasonal employees need to be made aware of what hazards are present on the rooftop. Don’t assume these hazards are obvious: to a new employee, some of them may go unnoticed unless you point them out. The edge of the roof, of course, poses a risk, but there are more:
- Skylights or Actual Holes in the Roof
- Solar Panels and Other Rooftop Equipment/Machinery
- Stairs and Ladders
- Uneven Surfaces or Tripping Hazards
- Construction Areas
- Hoisting Areas
- Debris or Wet Areas
It’s also important to discuss other safety considerations possibly unrelated to falling: heat illness, noise, and health effects from exposure to vibrating tools, for example.
Demonstrate How to Use and Inspect Equipment
As mentioned above, roof fall protection equipment like safety guardrails or a horizontal lifeline should be inspected regularly for signs of wear and tear. Employees should know how to identify damaged or broken equipment and feel confident in reporting the damage to a manager.
They should also be carefully instructed in how to put on and maintain any personal fall-arrest systems. After an employee puts on a harness, a co-worker should check the back to make sure none of the straps are twisted. Double-check all clasps and connections to ensure a secure hold.
In conjunction with your overview of OSHA guidelines and identifying all rooftop hazards, point out how each piece of equipment helps them avoid those hazards—and any limitations the equipment might have. For example, there may be a safety net system in place, but it’s better to prevent a fall in the first place by avoiding going beyond the guardrails.
Training is Key
All the roof fall protection measures in the world mean nothing if your employees aren’t properly trained in how to use them. When training is done, each employee should know:
- OSHA regulations governing their work at height.
- The potential risks associated with working on the roof and any particular hazards unique to that worksite.
- How to use all safety systems.
- How to inspect safety guardrails, warning line systems, lanyards, harnesses, a horizontal lifeline, and more for damage.
- How to report a safety violation or oversight, or any equipment damage they might find.
- Where to go if they have questions or concerns.
- And, that they can expect the highest level of safety possible from their employers.
Of all the considerations you must make when preparing your employees to work at height, choosing the right equipment should be one of the simplest ones. Working with a company that provides only OSHA-compliant safety equipment is the easiest way to ensure you’re following regulations and that your employees are protected according to industry standards. Contact us if you have any questions regarding OSHA-compliant roof fall protection.