Hello, I am Kyle Grayson, a safety specialist with the Department of Labor & Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. In February, 2012, I investigated an incident where a heating and air conditioning maintenance worker was killed when he fell through a plastic roof skylight. The worker was employed by a heating and air conditioning company that contracted with many building owners for maintenance of rooftop HVAC systems.
The employee was doing maintenance work with another employee on the roof-top heating and air conditioning unit shown on the left. As he was working, he took a few steps backwards, tripped and fell onto the skylight cover which broke under his weight. The skylight opening is shown on the right, covered with a blue tarp. The distance from the HVAC unit to the skylight was nine and half feet.
These photos show the broken thin plastic skylight cover the worker fell onto and the skylight opening that he fell through.
The employee fell 26 feet to the concrete floor inside the building as shown in this slide. Medics were called but they were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The skylight had a small warning sign on its edge which stated it was not strong enough to support the weight of a person standing or falling onto it and should be protected by a guardrail or screen.
The employer was cited for not conducting a hazard assessment of working on a roof with unprotected skylights, for not providing their employees with appropriate fall protection equipment and for not training them on the use of that equipment. Although the company had purchased fall protection gear, its use was not enforced. Workers can be protected from a fall into a skylight opening by several ways. A wire mesh screen strong enough to support the weight of person can be installed over the skylight, or a guardrail can be installed around the skylight opening. Or a worker can wear a fall restraint or fall arrest harness hooked into an appropriate anchor. Lets keep Washington Safe and Working by always making sure skylights are adequately guarded or workers are provided appropriate fall protection when working around unsafe skylights.