At what heights and how far from the leading edge of a rooftop is safe? When it comes right down to it, there is no one safe height measure nor one safe distance from a roof edge that fits all rooftop fall protection and safety concerns. Implementing OSHA rooftop safety standards can help to assure safe conditions.
Rooftop Safety: What Heights for General or Rooftop Fall Protection?
To meet OSHA requirements in the construction industry, employers must provide workers with fall protection whenever they work at heights of six feet or more above a lower level (29 CFR 1926.501(b)(1)). For general industry, employers must ensure that workers are protected at heights of 4 feet or more (1910.28(b)(1)(i)).
Employees exposed to these heights must have fall protection. Standards indicate the following rooftop fall protection options for both the construction and general industry:
- Safety guardrail systems
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall protection systems (such as personal fall restraint or fall arrest systems)
Keep in mind that if employees are working over dangerous equipment, machinery, or any other hazard where they could fall, then they must have roofing edge protection or machine guarding. There is no minimum height in these situations. There are OSHA rules defining safe distances from the edge of a roof and the degree of protection required.
What Distances from the Rooftop for Fall Protection?
For work on flat or low-sloped roofs, OSHA rooftop safety guidelines require fall protection. OSHA defines what fall protection is required based on how close employees are to the edge of the roof:
- Less than 6 feet from the roof edge:
Employers are to ensure that each employee is protected from falling by using fall protection systems such as guardrails, safety net system, fall restraint or fall arrest systems.
- Between 6 feet and 15 feet from the roof edge:
Employers are to ensure that each employee is protected from falling by using fall protection systems such as non-penetrating guardrails, safety net system, removable handrails, fall restraint or fall arrest systems. A secured designated area instead of rooftop fall protection systems is acceptable when the work is infrequent and temporary. A warning line is required at 6 feet to serve as a warning that a worker is nearing an unprotected edge.
- More than 15 feet from the roof edge:
Employers are to ensure that each employee is protected from falling by using fall protection systems such as mobile 360 guardrails, safety net, fall restraint, roof hatch, or fall arrest systems. Employers are not required to provide fall protection when the work is infrequent and temporary. A rule prohibiting employees from going within 15 feet of the roof edge without fall protection needs to be implemented and enforced.
If you have questions about rooftop fall protection or rooftop safety, please reach out to us.