While the benefits of skylights are numerous, the skylight fall protection hazards are often overlooked. Skylights pose a particular danger to individuals working around them because they are often viewed as “safe.” Unlike more obvious fall hazards like leading edges, a skylight’s dome creates a false sense of security for personnel working around them. In reality, a skylight’s cover is meant to protect from common outdoor elements like dust, debris, moisture, and wind. Most skylights are NOT designed to support the weight of a human being, especially a falling one.
OSHA Compliance for Skylights
Skylight fall protection is addressed in OSHA standards 1910.23 (4) as such: “Every skylight opening and hole shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides.” There has been confusion in the past about a skylight no longer needing protection (as described in the standard) if it has a glass or plastic cover over the opening, but, remember, these covers are just meant to protect against outdoor elements. This discrepancy was clarified in OSHRC Docket No. 90-2148. It concluded that a “skylight opening” includes intact skylights that still pose a hazard of falling through the skylight. Basically, if the skylight covering cannot support a 200 pound load test, it must have a screen or railing that is capable of supporting such a load.
Skylight Fall Protection Solutions
There are a number of skylight safety solutions to add protection to a skylight and be OSHA compliant:
- Skylight screens are generally the most economical fall protection solution. These non-penetrating skylight screens include two threaded bolts that compress aluminum channels and a galvanized mesh over the skylight to provide the proper amount of deflection without breaking the skylight cover.
- Skylight guards may be the most simple way to protect individuals from accidents relating to skylight fall hazards. The skylight guards are manufactured to size, placed directly over the skylight, and rubber tipped compression bolts are tightened to keep the guard securely in place. Installation of each shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and you will have a OSHA compliant skylight cover.
- Skylight Railing or Skyview Railing both provide necessary protection while not impeding the amount of light that passes through the skylight and eliminating the potential shadow cast by skyguards or skylight screens. This free standing railing system maintains the integrity of a rooftop without penetrating the roof, and meeting your 200 pound load test required by OSHA.
Skylights are a fall hazard and should be addressed as such. Every rooftop is different, but skylights can be more dangerous than other fall hazards since they are not always easy to notice. During the winter, domed skylights or standing steam skylights can be covered by snow, making them nearly impossible to spot. In addition, their constant exposure to the elements can make the glass or plastic even more brittle and susceptible to breaking. The best way to mitigate these risks are by recognizing that skylights are a fall hazard and providing proper protection for those who are exposed them.
For questions, please reach out to the EDGE Fall Protection team!