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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Though easily preventable, falls through skylights are one of the leading causes of worker fatality in the industry today. A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) survey revealed that approximately 22% of all fatal falls reported occurred when workers fell through skylight or smoke-vent skylight opening.

The cause for this high rate of incident is frequently attributed to a false sense of security; workers do not realize that skylights are a hazard. Case studies have revealed some falls to have occurred from a worker sitting on a skylight curb to take a lunch break. Simply leaning back would cause the glass to break and the worker to fall to the interior surface below.

In order to eliminate falls through skylights, OSHA has put the following regulations into place in the general industry:

Occupational Safety & Health Standards – General Industry

1910.23(a)(4)

Every skylight floor opening and hole shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides.

1910.23(e)(8)

Skylight screens shall be of such construction and mounting that they are capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied perpendicularly at any one area on the screen. They shall also be of such construction and mounting that under ordinary loads or impacts, they will not deflect downward sufficiently to break the glass below them. The construction shall be of grillwork with openings not more than 4 inches long or of slatwork with openings not more than 2 inches wide with length unrestricted.

It is commonly asked as to whether burglar bars or a screen be installed below the skylight to catch the worker before falling, but the answer is clear. According to OSHA general Industry regulations, the skylight screen must prevent the glass from being broken.

The reason for this is twofold: it helps prevent injury from a worker falling onto the prevention below and it helps prevent workers at the interior level below from having hazardous glass, metal, or plastic showering down and potentially causing serious injury.

It should also be noted that OSHA has also put the following regulations into place for the construction industry:

Occupational Safety & Health Standards – Construction Industry

1926.501(b)(4)(i)

Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.

1926.501(b)(4)(ii)

Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from tripping in or stepping into or through holes (including skylights) by covers.

1926.501(b)(4)(iii)

Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from objects falling through holes (including skylights) by covers

Skylights are becoming extremely common in modern day construction as the world goes ‘greener’ and welcomes natural light in warehouse, residential, and high-end construction sites. Protecting these skylights can be made easy by a number of systems in the marketplace that protect workers from the hazard skylights can present.

If you have more questions regarding skylight covers, please feel free to reach out to us at 1.800.466.6385.