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Why Doubling the Safety of Your Roof Hatch is Essential

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Why Doubling the Safety of Your Roof Hatch is Essential

Posted by Best Roof Hatches on 2021 Dec 10th

Roof hatches generally provide convenient and practical access to and from rooftops in commercial buildings. Roofers and workers rely on these products when doing maintenance, repair, and installation jobs on the roof, but can they solely rely on roof hatches to guarantee their safety?

As the building owner or facility manager, you are responsible for providing fall protection provisions to your workers every time they work for more than 4 feet. When working at such great heights, you must supply the roofing team with adequate OSHA-compliant fall protection gear and accessories that comply with roof hatch safety rail requirements.

Roofing jobs are among the most hazardous types of work in the construction industry. A roof hatch, in particular, presents an underestimated fall hazard that many facility managers tend to overlook since no one accesses the roof daily. It is crucial to understand the required OSHA roof hatch requirements, roof hatch code requirements, and most importantly, roof hatch fall protection to establish a safe working environment.

Common Roof Hazards

To determine the fall protection and safety system needed in your commercial roof, you must first have a general understanding of the potential hazards that can put the workers’ safety at risk.

1. Edge Protection

A roofing system’s primary responsibility is to safeguard buildings from harmful external elements while contributing to the overall safety and security of the property. Since your roof stands between your business and external hazards, it is significantly more susceptible to strong winds, slippery exterior, jagged terrain, and visual impairment caused by reflective surfaces.

It is easy to get distracted with a specific task or equipment on the roof that you might find yourself working near the edge and at risk of a potentially fatal fall. Whenever you step out of your roof access, you expose yourself to several risks that are often avoidable by simply implementing a strict precautionary method.

2. Roof Hatch

Accessing the roof will probably require workers to climb up a ladder to access the roof hatch. Workers rely on these innovative access points to ascend towards the rooftop to start doing repairs or inspections. Some roof hatches have automatic latches that close on their own, and while closed hatches present no immediate danger, leaving them open increases the risk of falling accidents.

To prevent this,OSHA requires building owners to install guard rails around the exposed area of the roof hatch. Buildings need to comply with applicable OSHA roof hatch size requirements by installing safety rails that must be at least 42 inches from the surface and manufactured with durable materials designed to withstand a falling force of 200lbs without deflecting to less than 39 inches.

If possible, choose a roof hatch with a reliable self-closing mechanism that instantly closes as soon as you ascend to the roof. Guardrails also efficiently distance workers from hatches by acting as a physical barrier to prevent them from falling into the hatch. In addition to the safety rails, it is also necessary to equip employees working on an elevated surface or near the open hatch with personal fall arrest devices or harnesses.

3. Other Roof Holes and Openings

While the edge of the roof and roof hatches are the areas that you need to be most careful with, you also need to address specific holes in the roof area. OSHA states that any opening more than 2 inches is considered a roof hole that can seemingly cause trip and fall accidents.

To eliminate any hazard, you need to repair these tiny holes caused by damage or decay permanently. Additionally, the material used to cover the holes must be durable enough to withstand twice the maximum intended load.

OSHA Fall Protection Guidelines

There are several ways for employers to sufficiently protect workers from fall accidents by utilizing conventional equipment such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall protection systems, and the implementation of safe work practices and adequate training. When possible, employers can use warning lines, designated areas, control zones, and similar systems to provide additional support so long as OSHA permits it.

It will also help if employers think about the potential hazards involved in roofing jobs to help conduct hazard assessments and develop a comprehensive fall protection plan to effectively manage these hazards and focus on prevention efforts. Understanding the applicable roof hatch requirements allow employers to elevate worker safety significantly.

1. Guardrail Protection: 1910.28(b)(3)(iv)

OSHA mandates the use of guardrails as a fall protection requirement at every opening in the roof, including hatches, ladderways, and surface holes. In addition, the only acceptable safety option for exposed sides on holes and hatches is a guardrail. Personal fall arrest systems and netting may promote security, but they are insufficient.

Understanding the term “exposed sides” on a roof hatch is also vital to ensure safety in the workplace. If the panel door is high enough when opened, the side of the ladderway where the door opens is not considered an exposed side. The general idea is that the hatch door should cover the hole if you fall in the same direction.

2. Railing Offset: 1910.29(b)(13)(ii)

The main objective of self-closing hatch doors and the offset is to prevent workers from falling into the open hatch. A self-closing safety door eliminates the need for a break in the railing for complete protection, but it will require direct user interaction to exit.

While the offset prevents direct access, there is still an opening in the railing that gives access to the open hatch. Your railing needs will depend on your workers and the work area.

3. Hatches Within 10 Feet of the Roof Edge: IBC Chapter 10: Means of Egress; 1011.13 Guards

Aside from OSHA, the International Building Code organization also creates regulations regarding roof hatch safety. Although the IBC does not govern local municipalities, most local buildings adapt to its standards, including the importance of guardrails.

There are many benefits in ensuring workers’ safety on the roof. Identify your specific needs by asking relevant questions like “do roof hatches need to be fire-rated?” or “is roof access required by code?” so that you can further improve your safety protocols. Employers or facility managers must continually examine work areas for any risks or hazards to address these issues and equip the workers with the proper gear and safety training.

While these guidelines and regulations may be overwhelming for some practical and simple safety tips to properly install guardrails around the roof hatch, it would also help if you would purchase from a reliable and trusted partner that understands your safety needs. Best Roof Hatches has high-quality roof hatches for your roofing needs. No matter what you need, you are in good hands with our team. Visit our website or call us at 1-800-431-8651 to learn more.