Does Your Building Use OSHA Skylights? Understanding Skylights and Safety

Understanding Skylights and Safety
Large skylights can be a safety hazard for workers that need to access your building’s roof.

In both large and small buildings, skylights offer a number of benefits. They reduce the cost of lighting by providing powerful natural light, as well as improving health, productivity and focus for your business’s staff.

While skylights have a huge range of benefits, they can also potentially pose a safety risk to people that work on the roof of your building, such as maintenance staff that are tasked with servicing equipment on the roof or cleaning your building.

In snowy weather, skylights can easily become covered in debris and blend in with your roof, rendering them almost completely invisible to people that aren’t already aware of their location on your building’s rooftop.

In order to make skylights safer for maintenance staff and protect against falls, the OSHA rules – or Occupational Safety and Health Administration – set out minimum fall protection standards for skylights in commercial and residential buildings.

At Bristolite, we offer a range of high quality skylights that are designed to meet or exceed the OSHA safety criteria. Despite this, it’s still important that your staff are aware of the risks of working near skylights and trained to avoid injuries.

Skylights and visibility in poor weather

Is your building located in a region that gets winter snowfall? In snowy conditions, it’s easy for your building’s skylights to blend in with the rest of the ceiling, making it impossible for people to differentiate between solid roofing and a skylight.

This can lead to potential injuries as individuals accidentally step on a skylight when they thought they were stepping onto a thicker, solid ceiling panel. This can result in injuries and falls, even in buildings with skylights that meet the OSHA requirements.

This is because the OSHA fall protection requirements have some shortcomings. The safety standards set out a minimum load that skylights must be able to tolerate, but express it as a static load level rather than sudden force from an impact.

Because of this, it’s possible that a skylight that complies with the OSHA standards could fail to protect someone – particularly a heavy individual – that falls while on the roof of a building performing maintenance work.

In order to prevent injuries and accidents from occurring, it’s important that all of the staff that have access to your building’s roof and are required to perform work there are aware of the location of all skylights, so avoiding them is easier.

It’s also important that your building has safety screens and security grills installed on and under its skylights. These safety measures can prevent serious injuries from occurring if a worker accidentally steps onto a skylight installed in your building.

Skylights and the power of impact force

One of the biggest issues with the OSHA regulations is that they provide a minimum strength requirement for skylights that’s expressed as a static load rather than as an impact force.

In the OSHA regulations, skylights are required to be able to withstand “a load of at least 200 pounds” to prevent people from falling and injuring themselves. The issue with this is that impacts aren’t static – they’re a sudden, extreme level of force.

The force produced when a 200lb person falls onto a skylight is significantly greater than the force generated when a 200lb person remains in a static position on top of a skylight. One is a static load – the other is a sudden, far heavier level of force.

Because of this, it’s important to understand that the OSHA regulations don’t mean a skylight is capable of withstanding any amount of force. Even a skylight that exceeds the OSHA regulations may be unable to tolerate the force of a falling person.

The solution to this is simple: make sure that all staff members that have access to your building’s roof are fully trained in working safely and completely aware of the location of all skylights and other potentially hazardous objects on the roof.

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