Falling from a rooftop is a very real hazard throughout the construction industry, and most certainly for HVAC workers. Whether installing HVAC equipment or doing regular maintenance, careful planning for fall prevention is an essential part of every job. At the bare minimum, compliance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards is a must.
OSHA Spells Out Fall Protection Standards
OSHA 29CFR 1910.28 spells out the duty to have fall protection and falling object protection in great detail. Where workers are exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more, OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection in one of three ways before work begins, namely:
- Guardrail systems
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall protection systems, such as personal fall arrest, travel restraint, or positioning systems
Working at the edge isn’t the only hazard.
OSHA generally accepts that any person working within 15 feet of a roof edge, the most obvious rooftop hazard, must be protected. But overlooking other dangers can be equally dangerous. Here are some key areas to consider when protecting your workers from falls, trips and slips.
1. Skylights are “holes in the roof.”
Rooftop workers have died from leaning, sitting or otherwise putting weight on skylights—which are not designed to protect against falls. OSHA regards a skylight as a hatchway, literally an opening in the roof, and requires that “every skylight floor opening and hole shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides” [29 CFR* 1910.23(a)(4)].
2. Transferring materials can put workers at risk.
It’s not uncommon for workers to choose the quick-and-easy way, rather than the safe way, of getting things from here to there. Managers onsite should plan out how everything will get to the roof, be moved across different rooftop areas and get back down again—before the work starts. Whether you need to use a forklift, crane or a simple tool belt, make sure everyone understands and abides by the correct safety procedures.
3. Traveling across the rooftop requires a plan.
The location of HVAC units aren’t always safe or easily accessible. Before every job begins, get familiar with the rooftop layout and how it relates to workers safety. How close will the workers be to the roof’s edge? Are there skylights to avoid? What other obstacles are there? The importance of planning safe routes and walkways can’t be overstated.
4. Slipping and tripping hazards require vigilance.
As you familiarize yourself with the rooftop, check the conditions. Are there areas that are uneven? Is the material slippery? Will weather conditions affect the workers’ footing? Plan ahead and ensure that your workers know what to expect. Remind them to remain alert, keep walkways clear and stick to designated routes to avoid tripping hazards.
5. A well-trained workforce is critical.
Train your workforce to recognize, report, abate and avoid hazards. From the foreperson, to supervisors and work crews, make sure all policies are clearly explained and that everyone understands the dos and don’ts of fall protection. Supervisors must require and ensure that all fall protection policies are followed, at all times.
Fall prevention for HVAC calls for individualized solutions.
Each job site and installation has individual requirements and constraints, so custom-designed fall solutions are often the best bet. You may benefit from partnering with a fall protection company that can provide custom, application-specific solutions.
Give GSS a call and find out how we can inspect, repair, and certify your roof to make your building safe, keep your workers safe, and meet OSHA standards required by federal law.
General Safety Services – Safety is Our Middle Name.