The Dangers of Corrosive Manufacturing Processes for Rooftop Workers

There have been a lot of news stories in New England about people falling through residential and commercial buildings while attempting to clear their roofs of heavy snow. Recently, several men and women have died or suffered serious injuries after climbing to the roof to assess their snow removal needs and prevent the entire roof from collapsing. Sometimes the roof collapses, other times they fall through a skylight that’s been covered by snow.

In these circumstances, there’s not much that can be done, considering that the massive snow accumulating on these rooftops would make it impossible to install any new fall prevention/arrest equipment. Even rooftops where fall protection has already been installed are problematic, because most workers are unable to reach the equipment under feet of snow.

There’s been a lot of news coverage about the potential dangers in places like Boston, with so many people falling through roofs as they try to clear them of the snow and ice. Unfortunately, there are other issues surfacing that don’t receive as much coverage: people are falling through commercial buildings that are degraded for other reasons, and it’s becoming more and more of a problem.

An unprotected leading edge is often the most dangerous issue companies are faced with. But, as of recent, we’ve seen an influx of companies who are requiring their workers to tie-off the moment they have access to the roof—even though the nearest unprotected leading edge is hundreds of feet away.

At Rigid Lifelines, we’ve received a lot of questions about system installation and appropriate training for daily use and even inspection for workers performing maintenance and repairs on commercial rooftops. Many of these inquiries are from companies who manufacture steel and metal, because their production process is so corrosive. Steel mills, for instance, are experiencing multiple worker injuries and fatalities while employees are working on a weakened metal deck or roof. So, most of the inquiries we receive are not to protect the worker from falling off the edge of a building, but to protect them from falling through a decayed or degraded rooftop.

One way companies with a weakened metal deck can improve the safety of their workers is to ensure that these workers are tied-off one hundred percent of the time. When workers are tied-off, falling through the roof is less of a concern; although they will still experience a fall, the fall will be arrested using the appropriate fall protection equipment.

Engineers are even recommending that some steel mill and metal production companies utilize 316 Stainless Steel for all parts of their fall protection equipment, especially on specific areas that are most susceptible to degradation because of their manufacturing process. 

Of course, one of the most important factors of fall protection is appropriate training. Oftentimes, ensuring that your employees are thoroughly trained to inspect their equipment daily and to look for specific areas that are most susceptible to degradation or collapse can save lives and prevent potential injuries in the workplace. For more information about fall protection and prevention or to ask about upcoming training opportunities, please feel free to reach out to one of our technical sales specialists at info@rigidlifelines.com.


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