Leading Edge not Only Danger in Fall Protection


When we think about working at heights and devise a fall protection program we most commonly think about the leading edge. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only fall protection issue to worry about.

Skylights and roof openings are fall protection hazards that are often overlooked. Here area a few pointers from NIOSH on skylights and roof openings:

  1. Be aware of all skylights and roof openings in your work area.
  2. Do not sire or step on skylights – they may not support your weight.
  3. Read any safety decals affixed to the skylights.
  4. Use fall protection for any work that might result in falls.
  5. Make sure that all skylights and roof openings are appropriately guarded before work begins.
  6. Use nets, catch platforms, or fixed covers if guardrails, screens, protective grillwork, and safety belts are not practical.

For more information on skylights and roof openings fall issues, check out the NIOSH “Preventing Worker Deaths and Injuries from Falls Through Skylights and Roof Openings

Fall Protection isn’t just a leading edge issue

When we talk about fall protection we tend to automatically think in terms of leading edge. Workers working at heights have to be protected from getting too close to the edge of the roof or platform they are working on and/or protected from falling if they do.

Not all falls, however, have to do with leading edges. Often times the fall hazard isn’t simply the edge of the building. There are skylights, roof access, ventilation shafts and other openings that we need to be aware of as well.

New construction is especially vulnerable to these types of hazards. Holes are cut in the flooring for ducting and ventilation shafts; even small holes (for plumbing or electrical) too small for a body to fit through can be hazardous if they are large enough for a leg to fit into.

These holes and openings need to be properly protected against so that workers don’t fall through them.

There are several options:

1. Seal them completely so that they don’t pose a hazard. Skylights that have plexiglass unbreakable domes, for example don’t pose a hazard. If they can be left open, however, then you need to protect against them.

2. Barrier systems like the DBI / Sala Portable Guardrail System are easily installed, require no screws or bolting into the roof itself yet they make sure that workers won’t accidentally step through them.

3. Horizontal systems that won’t allow workers to accidentally get to that opening.

Whatever your solution, when employees are working at heights that require fall protection make sure you pay attention not only to the perimeter of the area but look at the interior of that perimeter to identify any and all fall issues you might otherwise miss.