This short presentation describes a preventable workplace incident where a worker in Washington state was seriously injured on the job and is narrated by the L & I safety inspector who conducted the investigation. To view the narration script, click on the button on the lower right corner of the screen. To move between slides, or view a particular slide again, click on the same lower right hand corner button and then click on the back and forward arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Hello, my name is Monte Hanks and I work as a safety inspector at the Dept. of Labor & Industries – Division of Safety and Health. On May 14, 2010, I was assigned to investigate an incident where a roofer fell off a roof ending up in the hospital with several broken bones and a possible head injury.
The injured worker was working on this steeply pitched roof with four other roofers. He had just climbed onto the roof and was walking on the newly laid felt. The felt was not secured and it shifted under his feet, causing him to lose his footing, slide down the roof and fall nearly 11 feet off the roof to the asphalt driveway.
A closer view of the roof shows the two lifelines the roofers had attached their fall protection harnesses to, at the time of the incident. The injured roofer was attached to the lifeline on the right. So why did the roofer who slipped fall off the roof?
The answer is the lifeline attached to the injured worker had too much slack, so when he fell, his lifeline did not stop his fall before he hit the ground.
Although on first appearance, the roofers on this job appear to be wearing appropriate fall protection gear, in fact they are not protected at all. The rope lifelines have too much slack which would not prevent the roofers from falling off the roof or stopping their fall before they hit the ground. This was the situation that led to the injury of the roofer at this jobsite.
Steep-pitched roofs with fall elevations of 10 ft or more require the use of fall protection that either prevents the fall in the first place or stops the fall before the worker hits the ground.
When I interviewed the roofers, it became apparent that they had not been trained on how to properly use their fall protection gear. Not only was there too much slack in the lifelines, but the anchors were either of the wrong kind or improperly attached to the roof. In addition, no fall protection plan had been prepared for this job. Like the crew in this photo, the supervisor should have gone over the fall protection plan with the roofers before starting the job.”
As a roofing employer, you’re responsible for ensuring that your employees can recognize fall hazards and that they know how to protect themselves before they’re exposed to the hazards. You can’t assume your employees know how to use fall protection gear properly to protect themselves from falls. If they’re starting work on a new site, for example, they may not recognize the specific fall hazards on that building or know how to protect themselves unless you address those hazards in your fall protection plan. This photo shows the anchor used by the one of roofers on this job was a carpenter’s roof scaffold bracket which is not intended or approved by the manufacturer to be used as a fall protection anchor. The second anchor was the correct type, but was only attached by 3 or 4 nails bent over. It is possible that even if the injured worker had reduced the slack on his lifeline, it may have pulled out the anchor from the force of his fall.
Because of the ever present possibility of a fall, roofing is a hazardous job, but can be done safely with the use of proper fall protection gear. This injury could have been easily avoided if these workers had been properly trained and supervised. Roofers, we can keep Washington Safe and Working.