Solution Summary: FallGuards for Skylights
Fallguard, a skylight safety screen, is a prevention-through-design (PtD) process that addresses the risk of potential falls through skylights during the construction or maintenance of buildings. Due to the large number of fatalities each year from falls through skylights, as reported by U.S. Department of Labor statistics, it is mandatory that every skylight be guarded by a standard skylight screen.
NIOSH has considered preventing falls through skylights or uncovered roof and floor openings a NIOSH priority for 30 years, given the fatality rate has remained a serious health concern in the U.S. Fatal falls result from inadequate fall protection for those working around skylights and roof and floor openings. In accordance with OSHA standards, a fall protection system must be implemented on all job sites.
Although skylights are aesthetically desirable features in buildings, falls through fragile roofing materials and skylights are statistically high and may lead to injuries and fatalities. Uncovered or unguarded skylights expose workers to danger if they do not have appropriate fall protection systems.
How Risks are Reduced:
ASTM WK17797 testing guidelines must be used to determine the strength of skylight materials to withstand a worker’s weight while also considering the impact of sun exposure on degradation of materials after several years. Although these guidelines and tests exist, employers should not rely on manufacturer testing alone; instead they must ensure that an appropriate fall protection system is prepared to prevent falls through skylights. The fall protection can consist of fallguards for skylights, which can support more than 400 pounds (twice the weight of the two workers plus their equipment) (Figure 1 and 2), or guardrails at least 45 inches in height with a top rail and mid rail that can withstand a live load of 20 pounds per square foot (Figure 4). In this solution, the fallguard skylight screen is offered to eliminate the risk of falling through skylights and the consequential injuries and deaths.
Figure 4. Examples of guardrail Skylight Protection. Image source: fall-arrest.com
Effects on Productivity:
Fallguards will prove to be more than cost-effective, especially as an alternative to a fall through a skylight.
- Employers should ensure that all workers who are required to work near skylights are properly trained to identify potential fall hazards in advance and do not expose themselves to danger by sitting or stepping on the skylights.
- Employers also must affix decals and signs near skylights to warn workers about potential fall hazards.
- Employers must check and strengthen the skylight fallguards to withstand the weight of workers if they step on one by mistake.
Sogand Hasanzadeh - SARMAD Research Group, University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Behzad Esmaeili, Ph.D. - SARMAD Research Group, University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Pouya Gholizadeh - SARMAD Research Group, University of Nebraska- Lincoln
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