If you don’t think you need to be concerned about fall protection where skylights are concerned, just ask Jim Hauer, president of Imperial Roof Systems Co., West Union, Iowa. The company recently did a reroof job for a large retail store in Minnesota where one section of the roof had 130 skylights. “I tripped on one while doing the estimate,” Hauer explains. “I think roof openings are more dangerous than the roof edge.”
The skylights on the store were installed several years ago, and they had no fall protection – on the inside or the outside. Hauer suggested that the client use skylight fall protection. He had experienced a similar situation while working on a food processing plant in Waverly, Iowa. The plant had been cited in a safety audit for a lack of skylight fall protection. “We bid the job to remove the skylights and roof over the openings,” says Hauer.
Later Hauer realized that the skylights provided much needed natural light inside the plant, so he looked into different fall protection options. His local distributor, Allied Building Products, put him in touch with Roofing Representatives in West Des Moines. This company introduced him to the Saf-T-Screen from TruFast Corp., Bryan, Ohio. This product is designed to cover skylight and roof openings to comply with OSHA general industry standards: 29 CFR 1910.23 (Guarding Floor and Wall Openings and Holes); 29 CFR 1926.501 (Duty to Have Fall Protection); and 29 CFR 1926.502 (Fall Protection Systems Criteria and Practices).
The Saf-T-Screen can be used as temporary protection while work is being done on or to the roof, or it can be a permanent guard to prevent falls through skylights. The product is manufactured with retaining bars made of high-strength extruded aluminum. The screens are fitted to the outer frame of the skylight and do not cause damage to the skylight or compromise its watertight integrity. The screen material is 4-by 4-inch welded wire mesh manufactured with 300-series stainless steel to prevent corrosion. It is capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied perpendicularly at any one area of the screen.
According to Larry Harsila, product manager for TruFast, the Saf-T-Screen can be fabricated to fit almost any skylight up to 6-feet wide. Anything wider would need a railing system, also available from TruFast. The standard sizes for the Saf-T-Screen are 4-by-8 feet and 4-by-4 feet, but all are basically custom made to take into account the height of the skylight’s dome.
“The true benefit of the skylight screen is that they continue to protect employees, maintenance people, etc. Anyone up there can slip and fall,” says Hauer. Work on the food processing plant’s 80,000-sqaure foot roof is an ongoing project; it is being done in sections due to budget constraints. The roof’s existing membrane had failed and Imperial Roof Systems is doing a layover with heat-welded Sarnafil PVC. The skylights are mainly in two sections of the roof. One small area has about 40 skylights. All of them were kept and only a few replacement lenses had to be ordered.
The work on the retail store in Minnesota, again a reroof with Sarnafil PVC, was done last summer. The main roof section (where the 130 skylights are) is 390,000 square feet. “The Saf-T-Screens install quickly,” says Hauer. “On this job, four people installed 130 in two days.”
Overall, says Hauer, this job went well. There was even an unintended product testing. Hauer had made sure that installing the skylight fall protection was the first thing that the crew did, and for good reason. “On the third day on the project, a roofer tripped and fell backward onto one of the skylights – the framework bent but it didn’t hit the glass,” says Hauer.
Now, whenever there are skylights on a roof, Hauer includes fall protection in his bid. Workers are protected and the owner gets to keep an important source of natural light. “To me, safety is everything on a project. Openings on a flat roof are dangerous – guys get very comfortable up there, then they trip and fall and can’t grab on to the sides. You can also put up barriers, but I like the Saf-T-Screen because it’s permanent.”