According to Occupational Safety & Health Administration statistics, there were 264 deaths related to on-the-job falls during 2010. By 2012, that number had climbed to 278. These falls are generally preventable with the right training and safety measures, but despite OSHA training programs and information campaigns, deaths continue to occur.
One recent on-the-job fall occurred in Omaha, Nebraska. A roofer was working on an Old Market bookstore when he slipped and fell 30 feet, landing on the roof of a neighboring building. By the time respondents made it to the scene, the worker had died. Outside of Atlanta, Georgia, another roofer died when he fell through the roof he was working on and landed 20 feet below. Both of these deaths could have been prevented had the following safety measures been taken.
OSHA’s Three-Step Plan:
OSHA developed a three-step plan designed to help construction foremen and management teams make sure roofers work safely and responsibly at all times. These three steps including job planning, providing proper equipment, and training all workers.
Planning: Before roofers ever head to the job site, the entire job should be planned. This includes making sure the correct equipment is available and will be on site, including ladders, safety harnesses, and scaffolding. Next, a diagram of the roof must be created so that workers understand where the hazards may be. The diagram should include skylights, holds, and edges.
Equipment: Providing workers with the right equipment is essential to any roofing job. Roofers who are working at heights of six feet or higher should have personal fall arrest systems. This system includes an anchor that can be attached to the top of the roof. Each roofer would then wear a safety harness attached to a sturdy cable. This cable is clipped to the anchor. If a fall occurs, the roofer will drop, but the safety harness and anchor system minimize the distance a roofer can tumble.
Prior to any roofing job, the harness straps need to all be checked for frays or signs of wear. If there is any wear, new cables or harnesses need to be purchased. The personal fall arrest system also must fit snugly. If it is loose, it could slip off during a fall. Foremen should check the fit of any harness before the roofer starts climbing a ladder or scaffold.
Additionally, before workers begin roofing work, guards should be placed around any skylights or holes and at the edge of the roof. Roof jacks would then be placed along a sloping roofline to prevent roofers from sliding off the edge of the roof. These roof jacks are metal braces that attach to the surface of the roof and have sturdy boards attached across the jacks. If a roofer falls, he or she will only slip as far as the next board and not off the edge of the roof.
Training: Before any roofer begins working for a new company, the management team must arrange training sessions. During these training programs, workers learn how to use the safety equipment, how to identify possible hazards, and how to set up personal fall arrest systems. While wearing a safety harness is essential, it does no good if the worker disconnects his cable from the anchor to free his movement. It’s best to train workers to perform the job around the straps that keep them connected to the system.
Chance Marion is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Chance believes that with the right tools and determination it’s possible for businesses to improve safety at work; those who’d like to learn more should check out the innovative solutions from Sentis.