Many people wouldn’t consider the dangers of skylights on roofs and would assume the only fall hazard is falling off the edge. However, many countries now recognise a roof light as dangerous as a hole in the roof and implore building owners to treat them as such.
Skylights are in fact not as safe as some presume them to be. Regardless of the material the roof light is made from – be it glass or plastic – there is no way of knowing how much of a load it can take, and so workers should assume they are unsafe unless they are sure otherwise. Often, skylights are installed in places with high ceilings such as warehouses, and so a fall through a skylight would mean a fall of a considerable distance which could have fatal consequences.
Building Owners and their Responsibility for Protecting Skylights
Building owners have a responsibility for people working near skylights on their building, as they should know that skylights are a serious hazard on a roof. Not only is the safety of those on the roof at risk, but there is also the risk to those below if someone or something were to fall.
There is more than one way to protect operatives from the dangers of skylights. Platforms can be installed above the light to enable people to walk across it safely, although each skylight on the roof must be covered individually and they may be different sizes and heights.
Another option is to install freestanding guardrails around the skylight to prevent workers encountering it. Guardrail is a simple yet effective solution and can be used around roof lights of all shapes and sizes. It is also an option to cover multiple guardrails at once, meaning they are all secure, offering a cost-effective solution for roofs with many skylights. Guardrails can be used to designate safe walkways and areas for workers when skylights are present on a roof.
Maintaining Roof Lights Safely
Skylights are often installed with the purpose of bringing more natural light into the building, and so a damaged or dirty skylight will affect the amount and quality of light entering the space. Additionally, skylights are exposed to all kinds of weathers ad so regular access for cleaning is often required.
If this is the case and access to the skylight is needed for cleaning and maintenance, a safety net could be installed to protect workers although this isn’t always a viable choice since safety nets are a reactive way to combat the effects of a fall rather than to prevent one in the first place; so, shouldn’t be considered a solution.
Utilise Personal Fall Protection Systems
Using personal fall protection is often the ideal choice when cleaning or maintaining skylights, since the worker will be anchored to the building using a horizontal safety line system. This means the user would wear a harness which would be connected to a slider which runs over the safety line using a lanyard. Safety lines have the benefit of allowing the user to work on more than one skylight and could be maximised to cover other fall hazards on a roof to provide the user with protection and ease of use to travel across the roof space. Safety lines are also not visible from the ground level and so offer a subtle, cost-effective solution to protect workers from falling through a skylight.
Which Solution is Best for You?
Many structures such as factories and warehouses have trip and fall hazards across their roof space and so finding a comprehensive solution that covers all hazards is recommended. Guardrails can be placed around one or multiple skylights to create a walkway avoiding any fall hazards for those working at height. If access to the skylights is needed, a horizontal safety line is an effective way to cover multiple fall hazards within a certain area on a roof, providing those workers are fully trained to use the system and they have a safe area they can connect to the system.
This blog forms part of a series ‘From Zero to Safety’, Heightsafe have teamed up with one of our partners XS Platforms and will continue to provide valuable content to ensure companies are providing the safest environment for their workers.
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If you require a fall protection solution for skylights or other fall and trip hazards on your roof, contact our installation team today who can provide expert advice on the most suitable system for your building or project.