Spring and summer are peak seasons for construction in the northeastern regions of the United States. Many of these jobs require working at elevated heights, which increases the risk of fall injuries. Among the jobs with frequent injuries from falling is roofing. New construction, rooftop repairs, and maintenance of roofs all involve work at high elevations.
Even falls from a few inches can cause sprains or broken bones. A fall from the height of a home or commercial building can lead to a catastrophic injury, including a traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury, paralysis, back injury, or even an amputation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reviews reported workplace injuries and fatalities for trends. It has consistently found that falls are a leading cause of death in the construction industry. Since rooftop work is so dangerous, the OSHA requires employers to identify and protect workers from fall hazards of six feet or more when performing construction activities and four feet or more when performing routine maintenance tasks. Some important safety tips and recommendations for rooftop workers are listed below.
Preventing falls can be achieved through engineering controls, such as guardrails at the edge of a flat roof. Other rooftop features that can be equipped with guardrails are hatchways and skylights. Engineering controls are always preferred over other means of worker protection. They make preventing falls as simple and easy as possible, and they minimize the chance of human error.
Administrative or process control of fall hazards, such as the use of personal fall prevention systems, training to recognize and avoid falling hazards, and/or posted warning signs are all helpful and important in reducing fall hazards. These should not be considered a substitute for engineering controls when engineering controls are feasible.
Personal Fall Prevention Systems
Personal fall prevention systems are devices that attach a worker to a fixed anchoring point. They are designed to keep a worker from getting too close to an edge or an opening. A common system in workplaces is the personal fall arrest system. A personal fall arrest system is designed to stop a worker from hitting the ground if they do fall, and it consists of a harness, a lifeline, and an anchor. These systems rely on the anchor being sufficiently secure and on the ability of the worker to properly and consistently use the system to secure themselves.
Personal fall prevention systems are limited in their utility. It takes considerable time and effort to train workers on proper use of the systems. The harness must be designed to distribute the weight evenly. Body belts do not meet this requirement and can cause serious internal injuries if used for fall protection purposes.
Fall prevention systems also require effort to inspect and maintain the systems in working order. These systems may not always be practical. It can be difficult to find suitable anchor points. The anchorage for a fall arrest system must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds per worker attached. An alternative design can be used if installed and used under the supervision of a qualified person with additional precautions in place. It is not appropriate to use ventilation pipes or other non-fixed structures as anchors.
OSHA standards require a competent person to provide training to workers on recognizing fall hazards, procedures to follow to minimize the hazard, and proper use of these systems. Employers are required to certify the training of their employees has been completed. The OHSA suggest three steps to fall protection safety: plan, provide, and train.
Be Mindful of Hazards
Additional hazards can contribute to the likelihood of slip and fall accidents. Some examples of common hazards that may contribute to falls include:
- Power Tools: Cords extended from an outlet can cause a tripping hazard.
- Electricity: Working near live wires risks shocks, which can cause falls and loss of consciousness.
- Hazardous Materials: Exposure of unprotected workers to some paints or chemicals can cause dizziness and loss of balance.
- Extreme Temperatures: Heat stress can cause loss of balance, fainting, and poor judgement. Exposure to cold temperatures can cause numbness in the extremities, which could limit ability to grab a stabilizing guardrail or another support if a worker gets off balance.
- Water: Standing water can increase the chance of slipping or electric shock.
Every rooftop job should begin with a pre-meeting with all workers to discuss the job at hand, assess the condition of the work area, identify the hazards that are present, and to review safety precautions. Identified hazards should be immediately addressed.
Clean Work Areas
The working surface should be cleared of debris and free of unused equipment to minimize tripping hazards. Ladders should be placed on a stable surface and properly secured or tied off. Consider discontinuing work during extreme weather events. Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including shoes with traction and helmets if there is an overhead hazard.
If a work accident does happen, the injured employee should file a Workers’ Compensation claim for benefits to help cover the costs of injuries and financial losses. For help with a claim, a worker should speak to a lawyer about their options.
Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Represent Injured Rooftop Workers
Rooftop work can lead to severe injuries. Even with safety precautions, employees can still become injured. If you need help after a work accident, speak to a Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. today. For a free consultation, call us at 412-765-1888 or contact us online. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.