- Skylight/Sloped Glazing Council
- Skylight Fall Protection
- Skylight Fall Protection OSHA Act Criteria
Skylight Fall Protection OSHA Act Criteria
In January of 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSHA Act) updated criteria, created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), went into effect. The update included new criteria for protecting workers from falls through skylight openings. However, the state of California did not update their Cal/OSHA requirements (see endnote). The updated OSHA Act criteria for skylight openings allows for more flexibility for the building owner and contractors to comply, but also increases confusion on demonstrating compliance. This is largely due to removing the previous language without replacing it with more specific criteria. The previous language stated:
[29 CFR 1910.23 (a)(4)]
“Skylight screens shall be of such construction and mounting that they are capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied perpendicularly at any one area on the screen. They shall also be of such construction and mounting that under ordinary loads or impacts, they will not deflect downward sufficiently to break the glass below them. The construction shall be of grillwork with openings not more than 4 inches long or of slat work with openings not more than 2 inches wide with length unrestricted.”
The FGIA Skylight and Sloped Glazing Council has previously expressed its concerns about such problematic language. The primary issues included, but were not limited to, the following:
- The 200-pound load is not sufficient, nor is the description of how the load is applied. Relatively weak screen products have been shown to pass this requirement when sand bags are carefully stacked to apply the load. The load requirement should be a dynamic drop test, to more closely replicate the impact forces of a falling worker.
- We questioned the need to protect the skylight glazing from breakage since the goal of the safety screen is not to protect the product, but the worker from falling through the skylight opening.
- The skylight itself is often stronger than the ‘screen’ that is required to be installed on top. It does not clearly state that the skylight itself, could act as the ‘cover’ for the skylight opening.
We are glad to see that this language has been removed. However, as a result, the new criteria for protecting a skylight opening reverts to the general requirements of all “covers” for roof and floor openings (including skylight openings):
“[29 CFR 1910.29(e)]
Covers. The employer must ensure each cover for a hole in a walking/working surface:
[29 CFR 1910.29(e)(1)]
Is capable of supporting without failure, at least twice the maximum intended load that may be imposed on the cover at any one time; and
[29 CFR 1910.29(e)(2)]
Is secured to prevent accidental displacement.”
The lack of providing a well-defined load and impact rating leaves compliance open to considerable interpretation. The building owner and contractor look to the skylight and/or screen manufacturer who in turn looks to the building owner and contractor for their specifications. Of course, nobody wants to make the assumptions required, thus absorbing potential liability. And again, how should the load be applied, and over what area? Is it dynamically by a severe drop bag test or by carefully stacking sand bags until the desired load is achieved? These are critical questions that should not be left open.
Due to a lack of a standard for testing “covers”, members of the FGIA Skylight and Sloped Glazing Council have worked diligently for several years with other concerned individuals and safety organizations in the development of an ASTM standard tentatively titled, “Human Impact and Fall-through Resistance of Unit Skylights and Related Products Used on Skylight Openings on Commercial Buildings.” This work is scheduled for a third and likely final ballot with publication shortly thereafter.
The ASTM standard is intended to qualify the skylight opening cover in the event of a single worker accidentally falling, for most cases. However, the results obtained from use of this standard may or may not provide sufficient information in all scenarios.
The FGIA Skylight and Sloped Glazing Council recommends all interested parties read the council’s Fall Protection Awareness & Fall Prevention Guidelines web page.
At this time, it is not possible for a skylight or screen manufacturer to claim a product is "OSHA Compliant." The criteria set forth, as outlined above, does not provide a clear definition of all the requirements. This is problematic for not just building owners but, the entire industry including manufacturers, suppliers and contractors. The FGIA Skylight and Sloped Glazing Council is committed to addressing this issue, which of course will take time. As changes are made, this web page will be updated in an effort to communicate the current status to all who are impacted by this issue.
EndNote: Cal/OSHA still exists with a different set of criteria, which states:
(b) Floor and roof opening covers shall be designed by a qualified person and be capable of safely supporting the greater of 400 pounds or twice the weight of the employees, equipment and materials that may be imposed on any one square foot area of the cover at any time. Covers shall be secured in place to prevent accidental removal or displacement, and shall bear a pressure sensitized, painted, or stenciled sign with legible letters not less than one inch high, stating: “Opening -Do Not Remove.” Markings of chalk or keel shall not be used.
(e) Any employee approaching within 6 feet of any skylight shall be protected from falling through the skylight or skylight opening by any one of the following methods:
(1) Skylight screens installed above the skylight. The design, construction, and installation of skylight screens shall meet the strength requirements equivalent to that of covers specified in subsection (b) above. They shall also be of such design, construction and mounting that under design loads or impacts, they will not deflect downward sufficiently to break the glass below them. The construction shall be of grillwork, with openings not more than 4 inches by 4 inches or of slatwork with openings not more than 2 inches wide with length unrestricted, or of other material of equal strength and similar configuration.