How to prevent falls through a skylight

How to prevent dangerous falls through a skylight

The edges of a roof are not the only areas where the danger of falling is present. In this post, we will delve into another frequently encountered fall hazard that requires consideration when performing work on a flat roof.

Falling through a skylight

For many, the danger of falling through a skylight is less obvious than the danger of falling off the roof edge. But it is with good reason that in many countries, lawmakers look at roof lights as holes in the roof and expect building owners to safeguard them as such.

People often mistakenly perceive skylights as safe. Whether it concerns a plastic dome or a skylight made of glass: it’s very hard to tell whether a skylight is able to carry a load. Therefore, building owners will have to rely on common sense in many situations. In other words: they’ll have to assume skylights are unsafe, unless they are able to prove otherwise.

If a person were to fall through a skylight, the severity of the consequences would be significant. This holds particular weight due to the fact that skylights commonly find their installations on roofs or within areas boasting high ceilings, such as warehouses or factory halls.

Building owners

Building owners should know that fall hazards caused by skylights are real and often underestimated, and that it is their responsibility to protect the people working near skylights.

A worker being close to a fall-through hazard without proper fall protection is unquestionably unsafe. Of course, the safety of the people underneath the roof is at risk as well.

What steps can employers take to prevent workers from falling through skylights?

Guarding skylights

First of all, it’s possible to place a certain type of cover over the skylight, such as the Kee Cover. Workers can attach this protective screen onto the roof, creating an overlaying panel that prevents them from falling through. Of course, it’s necessary to cover each individual skylight on the roof. Skylights come in many different forms, so covering them may not always be an option.

Frequently, workers utilize freestanding guardrails like the Kee Dome to actively prevent approaching skylights. This straightforward fall protection method is applicable for skylights of varying shapes and sizes. They can be arrangement around one or multiple skylights, effectively securing all of them simultaneously.

Skylight Fall Protection

A worker who is anchored to a horizontal lifeline can safely access the skylights on a roof. 

Skylight maintenance

Of course, architects often choose to incorporate skylights into a building’s design to introduce more natural light into the space below. A dirty or damaged skylight can completely spoil the appearance of the building, not to mention the safety of its roof.

Skylights are constantly exposed to the weather, and therefore require cleaning. Thus, the ability to access the skylights themselves is often desirable.

If there’s a need for access to the skylight itself, it becomes essential to take personal fall protection into account. Furthermore, while using a safety net to safeguard individuals cleaning or repairing the skylight might be an option, it’s not universally feasible. Recognizing that safety net systems are designed to mitigate the impact of falls rather than address the underlying issue is crucial, as it highlights their limited effectiveness as a solution.

Personal fall protection

Workers can safely clean skylights or replace damaged skylights when anchored to a horizontal lifeline system. In this case, a user’s harness is connected to a slider which runs over the lifeline (or anchorage line) by means of a safety lanyard.

You can utilize a single horizontal lifeline trajectory to provide anchorage for tasks involving a series of skylights. The lifeline can also be strategically placed to protect users from several fall hazards along its route.

As an example, consider the horizontal lifeline shown below, which can serve as an anchorage point for tasks conducted both near the roof edges (on the right) and in proximity to the skylights (on the left).

You can utilize a single horizontal lifeline to anchor workers either in the vicinity of the roof edge (on the right) or close to the hazardous skylights (on the left).

It’s quite easy to install a horizontal lifeline on a roof. Also, a lifeline on top of the roof is not visible from the space beneath.

All this makes a horizontal lifeline a subtle, cost-effective and easy-to-install fall protection solution to protect workers from falling through a skylight.

What’s the best solution?

The roofs of warehouses, factories, or similar structures often contain quite a lot of trip and fall hazards. In such situations, it’s advisable to seek a comprehensive solution that addresses all fall hazards present on the roof.

Placing freestanding guardrails is an effective solution to create safe walkways for people working in the vicinity of the skylights. This may be more efficient than guarding or covering each skylight one by one.

If there’s a need to access the skylights, utilizing a horizontal lifeline becomes an effective strategy for addressing multiple fall hazards through a thoughtfully designed lifeline trajectory. Of course, workers must be able to connect to the lifeline in a safe area and receive proper training to work with the system.

A Kee Cover® protects the worker and the window from falling through.

More information

If you would like more information about our fall protection solutions, request our fall protection brochure.
Further more the Kee Cover or Kee Dome might be a possible fall protection system for your building or project. Are you in need for personal advice about the most suitable fall protection solution? Than it’s best to contact us directly.

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