Texas Mutual urges roofers to prevent falls in wake of hail storm

The odds of a hail storm happening the same day you bring your new car home are relatively slim. The odds of a softball-size piece of that hail busting through your attic, into your garage and onto your shiny new hood are probably even slimmer.

That’s exactly what happened to a resident of Wylie, a suburb of Dallas, last week.

A large hail storm hammered the area, pummeling cars, shattering windows, toppling trees and punching holes in roofs and skylights. In fact, one resident found pieces of his roof in a nearby shopping center. He estimates the damage at $100,000.

Whether you’re a seasoned construction worker or a do-it-yourselfer looking to save a few bucks, holes in roofs and skylights present safety hazards. You can protect yourself by following these tips.

Cover up
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a hole as a gap or void two inches or more in its least dimension. OSHA requires you to protect holes with guardrails or covers that cannot be moved.

For covers, use at least ¾ inch plywood, and avoid fiberboard and cardboard. The goal is to construct a cover that will support two times the anticipated load. That includes the combined weight of people, equipment and materials.

To promote awareness, label your hole covers: “HOLE.”

Don’t test skylights’ limits
Skylights are an ongoing source of catastrophic injuries and deaths among Texas Mutual policyholders. Remember that skylights have limits. If you test those limits, the consequences can be fatal.

This video tells the story of a supervisor who fell 30 feet to his death through an unguarded skylight.

Never sit on, lean against or step on a skylight or any covering placed over a hole in a roof or floor. They are not designed to support your weight.

Furthermore, exposure to the elements can make skylights brittle and weak. That’s especially true in Texas, where ultraviolet rays beat down on skylights all summer.

Use the big 3
OSHA’s fall protection standards require construction workers to use fall protection when working from heights of six feet or more. OSHA’s general industry fall protection standard is four feet.

Fall protection comes in many shapes and sizes, but the “big 3” are guardrail systems, safety nets and personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). You should use at least one of the big 3 when fall protection is required.

Generally, guardrail systems are your safest choice. That’s because guardrails prevent falls, and safety nets and PFAS’ limit how far you fall.

A word about personal fall arrest systems
You can’t always cover or guard a floor or roof opening. For example, maybe you’re installing a skylight or ventilation unit. In that case, you must use a PFAS that includes a full-body harness, lanyard, connectors and appropriate anchorage points (tie-offs). Make sure you only tie off to anchorage points your employer has identified as safe.

You should also inspect your PFAS every time you use it. If you see cracks, breaks, sharp edges or other damage, immediately report it to your supervisor.

Employers: Stand down for safety
OSHA will host its annual Stand Down for Safety event May 2 – 6. The national observance is an opportunity for employers and employees to pause during their busy day and discuss the importance of fall prevention.

Texas Mutual encourages you to visit the campaign website and take advantage of the free training resources. You can access other free materials on OSHA’s Safety Pays. Falls Cost. website, as well as on the Stop Construction Falls website hosted by the Center for Construction Research and Training.


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