Keeping workers safe

Learning about fall-protection equipment will help you prevent worker falls

As a roofing contractor and business owner, you constantly are making choices. For example, are you going to implement a comprehensive fall-protection program, provide the necessary equipment and feel assured each employee has been trained to perform a safe job, or do you take chances, save money and hope no one falls? Clearly, the better decision is the former, but fall-protection options aren't always presented in a clear-cut way. However, being aware of the best and most up-to-date fall-protection safety equipment available will help.

Most roofing contractors are familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) rules for fall protection in the construction industry (29 CFR 1926.500 Subpart M) that went into effect in 1995. OSHA standards applicable to the construction industry, including roofing, are set forth in CFR 1926. General industry standards are set forth in CFR 1910. In some areas, the sections are the same.

OSHA's goal is to increase the level of protection for construction employees against injuries from falls. Falls remain a leading cause of injury and workers' compensation and general liability insurance losses.

Skylight protection and finding anchorage points for personal fall-protection systems are especially problematic. OSHA rules require employers to protect workers from falling into or through holes and openings in floors and walls and guard floor openings by a standard railing and toeboards or a cover capable of supporting twice the maximum intended load.