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Process and engineering controls to protect you during roof work

Roof work is one of the most hazardous jobs within the construction industry. If your duties as an employee of a construction company in Pennsylvania involve working on roofs, you might benefit from a reminder about your vulnerability. Regardless of whether you work on the roof in residential construction or a multistory project, a fall could cause catastrophic and life-changing injuries, and it could even be fatal.

A reminder about the dangers and the precautions you can take might prevent complacency. Too often, a worker who has worked on roofs for years with no incidents becomes complacent and disregards safety measures -- only to fall to his or her death. Managing safety on a roof work project requires written process control measures and engineering measures.

Process Controls

Your employer must control and monitor the movements of each worker who has access to the roof to comply with the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Establishing a safety control plan is essential for management, and it must contain the following details:

  • The specifications of the job, the required equipment and the timeline for completion.
  • A list of the workers who will have access to the roof and the duties of each one.
  • Access method for workers -- stairwell, ladder or aerial lift -- and the planned process to place the necessary tools and equipment on the roof.
  • Details of the required fall protection systems based on the hazards of the particular roof.
  • Confirmation of the training provided to workers -- both in the operation of fall protection systems and hazard recognition.
  • The plan must include clear instructions of emergency procedures that involve the safe removal of injured workers from the roof as well as how to bring someone to safety after an arrested fall leaves him or her suspended in a fall harness.

You would be smart to familiarize yourself with the list of control measures, and you should also to make sure you attend all training sessions. Furthermore, never strap your safety harness on without first checking its condition for defects and worn parts. It would be tragic to have your personal protective equipment fail when you trust it to arrest your fall.

Safety engineering

When it comes to roof work, your employer must assess the work area to determine the need for different safety measures. The following types of safety engineering typically form part of roof safety:

  • Guardrails: Steel guardrails, manufactured according to OSHA regulations, can be temporary or permanent protective devices to prevent falls without the need for workers to tether themselves to anchors. Roof edges, skylights, hatchways and other openings that pose fall hazards can have guardrails to prevent falls.
  • Personal protective systems: This system involves a worker to wear a fall harness and to tether it to a safe and secure anchor point on the roof. In the event of a fall, the harness arrests the fall and leaves the worker suspended before he or she strikes the ground or a lower level.

While safety harnesses have saved many lives, you must also learn about suspension trauma and the dangers of being suspended for too long -- even after the harness saved you-- as a risk of serious harm will remain.

Workers' compensation

When considering your safety, you might have concern over the impact of a fall on your financial stability. Medical expenses can mount up quickly, and if you suffer temporary disability, the loss of income might be devastating. However, you might find comfort in knowing that the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance program will pay your doctor's bills and other medical expenses while the benefits will also cover a portion of lost wages. If the claims process seems daunting, help is available from an experienced workers' compensation attorney.

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