Abstract: Falls through skylights continue to plague roofing construction, as injury and wrongful death cases rise. Roofing contractors are required per OSHA regulations and the standards of care to protect workers. Skylights must be shielded with covers, screens, or protective barriers before commencing work. Unprotected roof-holes, windows, or skylights may be overlooked until a worker falls, is seriously injured on the job initiating costly litigation.
In a wrongful death case, a roofing foreman and crew arrive at the worksite, a commercial re-roofing project for a warehouse. The foreman directs his workers to unload tools and materials from the truck, and haul them up to the rooftop. Roofers set up ladders to gain access to the roof and, within minutes, one of the roofers inadvertently loses his footing and falls onto a weathered skylight, shattering the opaque- plastic and falling 30 feet to the concrete floor below.
In a serious injury case summary, a roofing crew was tearing-off old shingles of a three- story residential structure, and failed to recognize an unprotected duct in the rooftop. Struggling to scrape off the old tarpaper, a roofer was distracted and stepped back falling directly into the open duct. With one leg folded upwards, he quickly fell into the unguarded space, crashing to the basement floor below. He sustained serious lacerations and multiple broken bones resulting in lost work, and a long, painful rehabilitation.
Roofing Construction Injury Practice
As a construction litigation attorney, you may have handled cases similar to the examples mentioned above.
In my experience as a roofing safety professional, unprotected roof holes and skylights continue to be a threat, and the cause of many injury negligence cases. During onsite safety inspections, we often find unprotected skylights in both residential and commercial settings. Safe roofing and injury prevention practices serve to shield workers from the hazards of working aloft.
Safety professionals serving as experts in a roofing injury case must be experienced and knowledgeable about roofing construction hazards and the safety practices of the trade. They must also be familiar with fall protection (methods and equipment), understand the difference between roofing and reroofing, and possess fluency with applicable OSHA regulations of the trade. All active parties involved in roofing construction must remember that roof holes and skylights are required to be protected or covered prior to the initiation of work tasks.
In addition to possessing technical skill in roofing safety, experts should also identify past offenses, including a contractor’s history of violations and fines, potentially impacting a case. Since OSHA has different categories of citations and penalties, experts can help interpret the differences between serious and/or willful violations. Once an expert has completed a review of evidence, read the transcripts, and conducted an inspection of the equipment or site, a preliminary report or a case safety analysis may be useful to retaining counsel. In preparation for trial, effective trial exhibits or litigation support proffered by the expert may include: charts, warning signs, tools, models, personal protective equipment (PPE), fall protection (methods and equipment), or physical mockups to assist the trier of fact, and enable them to have a better understanding of complex safety engineering concepts and practice terminology.
OSHA Regulations for Roofing Construction:
29 CFR §1926.501 Duty to have Fall Protection
29 CFR §1926.501(b)(4) Holes
29 CFR §1926.502(i) Strength requirement
29 CFR §1926.502(i)(3) Securing requirement
29 CFR §1926.502(i)(4) Marking requirement
California OSHA, CCR Title 8, §1632, (b)(1), Floor, Roof, and Wall Openings to Be Guarded.
Pre-Roofing Construction Safety Checklist (Example)
Have the fall hazards been identified?
Any Open Roof/Floor Holes?
Any Unprotected Skylights?
Any Unprotected Roof areas or Leading Edges?
Fall hazards corrected before work starts?
Fall Protection Plan in place, workers trained?
Competent Person Conducted pre work inspection?
Roof Fall Protection Anchor Point Identified and Established? All Fall Protection Equipment onsite, in use, or in place?
All Workers 100% Tied-Off?
All Roof/Floor Holes Identified, Covered/Barricaded?
All Skylights Guarded/Barricaded?
Fall Rescue Plan and Equipment in order?
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U.S. Federal OSHA Letters of Interpretation (1992-2016)
https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owasrch.search_form?p_doc_type=INTERPRETATIONS&p_toc_level=0&p_keyvalue= Duty of a subcontractor to cover floor holes in a multi-employer work site
Whether certain skylights meet the cover criteria of 1926 Subpart M
California OSHA Construction Safety Orders for Roofing Operations
O’Connell, D., Polkabla, M., Garcia, A., “Skylight Fall Prevention,” (2010), Bilingual Roofing Inspection Summary, SAFETRAN, LLC, http://www.safetransafety.com/items/skylightfallprev2010.pdf
Roofing construction safety, roofing injury, skylight falls, proactive safety, fall prevention, fall protection, safety education, work at height, elevated work hazards, construction safety management, open roof holes, floor holes.