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Warning Lines and Skylights

roofing workers installing safety on skylights


By Leigh Hunsberger, Eastern Safety Manager, King of Prussia, PA

Skylights are an often overlooked hazard in both the construction and general industry sectors. Many times individuals only relate to a leading edge as a “fall hazard”; but, the fact remains that each year there continues to be falls through unprotected skylights. Whether we are discussing roofing safety, the safety of maintenance workers or anyone else that may access roofs, we need to make sure all hazards are addressed.

Falls through skylights are easily preventable. The first step is to identify whether there are skylights present on the roof. Flush mount skylights may be improperly protected or not protected at all. They may have a coating or spray foam application on top of the skylights making them difficult to identify on the roof.  Domed skylights may have internal cages that do not meet applicable standards or have the capability to support twice the expected load. A thorough inspection by a trained professional will help identify these areas of concern. If you are unsure or unable to fully inspect these areas, they should always be treated as a fall hazard. 

There are multiple options available to building owners to eliminate these hazards, protect their associates and comply with OSHA Regulations. Whether it is installing a permanent screen/cage, guardrail or warning line system, there is an option to fit each building’s individual needs. Not only are there cost effective solutions for protecting and eliminating these hazards; but, more importantly, it is the responsible thing to do. 



Warning Lines

By Robert Wilson, Northern Group Safety Manager, Franklin, OH

Warning lines are one of the oldest forms of fall protection mandated by OSHA for low slope roof projects. The basics of the system are that warning lines must be made of rope, wire or chain. The flags must be visible, present every six feet, 34 to 39-inches above the roof level, and erected at a minimum of six feet from the fall hazard. Most workers generally think about warning lines as a means of fall protection to demarcate the unprotected edge; but warning lines can be used to establish a barrier for multiple rooftop fall hazards. The warning line system continues to be a versatile tool in the roofing industry even with the increasing use of temporary guardrails and engineered systems. 

Prior to commencement of a roofing project, a warning line system may be established to create a working perimeter for the crews. The bright flags provide the crews with a clear indicator of their distance from the unprotected edge. This perimeter allows the crews to work freely within the designated work area.

Once access/egress to roof level has been determined and the work perimeter erected, a clear indicator of where to access/egress must be established. Warning lines can be used to accomplish this task as well.

Warning lines may also be set-up to establish a walkway to the intended scope of work. This provides roofers with a clear path of travel to the main work area. This use allows crews to steer clear of hazards at roof level, such as skylights, areas where the decking is suspect and customer specific equipment.

Warning lines are often used to flag-off skylights in the main work area. This provides the crews with an understanding of how close they can get to skylights before additional means of fall protection is required, such as conventional fall protection systems.

An underdeck inspection is conducted when bidding roof projects. One of the main reasons for this inspection is to locate potential areas of deteriorated decking. These areas of deteriorated decking may fall within areas of the proposed scope of work or paths to the prospective work area. Warning lines can be used to make the crews aware of these isolated locations at roof level. Warning lines are a clear indicator of where you can work up to before conventional fall protection is necessary. 



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