Falls Through Holes and Openings

Occupational fatalities caused by falls remain a serious public health problem throughout the United States.

Holes and openings are made in roofs and floors of buildings, both when they are built and when they are torn down. Workers can be injured or killed if they fall through the holes. Deaths can be prevented by compliance with existing OSHA standards for guarding roof openings and by improvement in the worker’s awareness of the hazards involved in working near skylights, skylight openings, and other roof openings.
NIOSH recommends that the following precautions be taken to prevent fatal falls through skylights, skylight openings, and other roof openings:
  • Railings or screens guarding all skylights and other openings in roofs must be installed before roofing work begins and must remain in place until construction is completed, in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.23 and 1926.500.
  • As required by current OSHA standards (29 CFR 1926.28) employers must provide protection against falls before workers begin any operations that include the potential for serious falls.
  • Where conventional protective devices such as guardrails or safety belts/harnesses with lanyards may not be practical, employers must provide alternative forms of protection against falls such as fixed covers, catch platforms, or safety nets as described in 29 CFR 1926.105. Nets are especially useful because they provide passive protection for workers – that is, the protection does not depend on workers to recognize the hazard and take appropriate protective action. In construction operations, netting can be installed when the roof openings are made and left in place until all construction activities are complete or until more permanent guards are installed.
Employers should assure that all workers required to work near roof openings are adequately trained to recognize the serious hazard of falls through roof openings, and the danger of sitting or stepping on skylights.