Published on: August 10, 2022
Skylights are a great way to introduce natural light to your facility, reduce operating costs, and increase employee morale. However, they pose a significant safety hazard. Skylights, although beneficial, are a falling hazard for roof workers. Workers can trip or fall back into a skylight, shatter the dome, and fall through. Thus, appropriate skylight fall protection systems must be installed to ensure your roof and maintenance crew are safe.
Since it is difficult to determine if skylights can withstand the forces associated with a fall, OSHA considers a skylight no different than any other open hole found on your roof. Skylight fall protection systems are recommended to ensure worker safety and OSHA compliance.
Many skylight fall protection systems are available. Let’s discuss them in detail.
OSHA’s Guidelines About Skylight Protection
If you are wondering why a skylight needs to be protected, we have the answers for you. Skylights are extremely dangerous and pose a safety risk to individuals or workers that access the roof for various purposes.
According to OSHA, if an individual is within 6” of a skylight, it needs to be protected. The flimsy glass dome cannot handle much weight and guarantees a fall if a worker trips or falls on it. Thus, the skylight needs to be protected at all costs unless it is situated in an area where no one can access or get close to it.
As mentioned above, OSHA considers a skylight a hole. OSHA’s definition of a hole in the general and construction industry is:
“A gap or void, 2 or more inches in its least dimension in a floor, roof, or other walking/working surface.”
The dimensions for holes are so small because the danger is not only limited to falling through the hole but also tripping and potentially injuring yourself over it. Holes are also dangerous for forklifts, scaffolds, ladders, etc.
Thus, according to OSHA, a skylight is a hole. Skylights are not designed to prevent falls; they are installed to prevent water, small animals, and debris from entering the building and providing natural light into the facility. So, how should they be protected?
According to OSHA, “Floor and roof opening covers shall be designed by a qualified person and be capable of safely supporting the greater of 400 pounds or twice the weight of the employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on any one square foot area of the cover at any time.”
There are other safety restrictions set by OSHA when considering skylight fall protection systems, such as:
“The construction shall be of grillwork, with openings not more than 4 inches by 4 inches or of slatwork with openings not more than 2 inches wide with length unrestricted, or of other material of equal strength and similar configuration.”
Now that we know the safety guidelines set by OSHA, let’s discuss the different skylight fall protection systems available.
The most common skylight fall protection system includes skylight screens. These screens are optimal for rooftops that have multiple skylights and limited space. Screens ensure the space is not cluttered compared to other fall protection systems.
Skylight screens are available in different sizes, materials, and shapes and can fit into any hole or opening. There are two main skylight screens:
- Corrugated metal roof screens – These attach to the metal rib structure to mitigate the risk of fall hazards
- Standing seam metal screen: This attaches by clamping to the standing seam instead of penetrating fasteners
Advantages Of Skylight Screens
- Variety: as stated above, skylight screens are available in multiple materials. The most popular among them are galvanized or stainless steel. Both materials can withstand harsh weather conditions, such as rain, snow, ice, and other building materials. They also offer longer protection against falls and pass the test of time.
- Safety: skylight screens are OSHA compliant and provide safety when necessary. These screens are easy to install and don’t penetrate the roof, thus maintaining their integrity. Moreover, skylights prevent falls and lacerations and risks for anyone below them.
- Passive protection: skylight screens offer passive protection. This means your facility workers don’t need any training or certifications.
Skylight screens are durable, can last for years, and withstand harsh weather conditions. Moreover, they are easy to remove and install if maintenance is required.
Skylights are not the only safety hazards on roofs; roof openings also lead to falls and serious injuries. Here is where hatch kits come in. Hatch kits promote safe entry and exit from rooftop openings along with a handrail for increased security.
FLS hatch kits are beneficial because they are OSHA compliant, work with all rooftop hatches, and exceed railing strength requirements. Hatch kits also integrate with existing openings and ladderways and are galvanized; thus, weather-resistant and durable. They are easy to install and have multiple configurations to meet your specific requirements.
A skylight guardrail is another fall protection system that offers maximum protection and creates a barrier around the skylight to prevent falls, trips, and injuries.
According to OSHA, “Skylight guardrails must be at least 42’’ (+ or – 3’’) above the working/walking surface and be able to withstand a sustained force of 200 pounds applied in a downward direction.”
A skylight guardrail can be used around skylights, dome lights, and roof lights and does not block light.
Advantages Of Skylight Guardrail
- Non-penetrating: it is a freestanding skylight fall protection system that doesn’t penetrate your roof but uses clamping rings to fasten to the base of the roof opening, thus, allowing for maximum mobility and utility.
- Durable: all components are galvanized. Thus, they are weather-resistant, can withstand extreme force, and are virtually maintenance-free.
- Permanent protection: the primary benefit of skylight guardrails is that they offer permanent protection. The modular design can be removed and re-erected where needed without requiring an extensive installation process.
Skylight guardrails can be customized and placed around non-standard skylight shapes. They can also be erected further away from the skylight to prevent blocking the sunlight.
And that’s it for skylight fall protection systems. The choice between the above-mentioned systems can vary depending on your roof size and skylight structure. Thus, it’s best to consult professionals like the team at Flexible Lifeline Systems. Contact us today to speak to a fall protection expert and guide you through recommended solutions for your potential fall hazards.