If a roof hatch is left open while service/maintenance is being conducted, it creates an unprotected opening. Creating a fall hazard.
Generally, a fall greater than 3 meters where the hazard cannot be eliminated requires some form of fall protection, like a guardrail to protect workers from a fall hazard.
Walmart is one of Canada’s largest employers. And it is continually growing, by adding more services, including online shopping at Walmart.ca, home delivery, and pickup at stores, with many more locations on the horizon. Every day, the company works with more than 2,100 Canadian suppliers. Safety for customers, staff, and third-party vendors is paramount. This safety-driven culture led Walmart to schedule a site visit with a roofing consultant to better understand how to create a safer working environment on their rooftops.
Roof Hatch Safety: The Fall Hazard
Hatches for industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) buildings can pose a fall hazard because they provide access to the roof, most likely greater than 3 meters from the ground. An unexpected fall to the ground from the rooftop can be life-threatening. If the hatch is left open while service/maintenance is being conducted, it creates an unprotected opening. Thus, a fall through the hatch from the rooftop can be just as dangerous as a fall from the roof’s edge, as the floor below the hatch opening can be quite far from the rooftop. When navigating the rooftop, workers may be distracted and not realize that the roof hatch behind them has been left open. This proves true when working on a large project where multiple people are visiting or working on the roof.
Furthermore, the area around the hatch may not be adequately marked or protected, which can increase the risk of someone accidentally stepping into the opening or losing their balance while working near the hatch opening. This risk is particularly heightened when workers must access the roof frequently or in areas with high foot traffic as the chances of a hatch door being left open are higher.
It’s important to note that the Ontario Building Code – Industrial Establishments requires employers to provide fall protection for workers working at heights of 3 meters (approximately 10 feet) above a lower level. This can include using guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, or other appropriate measures to prevent falls. So, how tall is your fixed hatch ladder? And do you have a safety solution to prevent a fall-related injury?
Roof Hatch Safety: Minimizing The Risk of a Fall Near a Roof Hatch
Generally, a fall greater than 3 meters where the hazard cannot be eliminated requires some form of fall protection, like a guardrail to protect the worker from danger. In addition, to minimize the risk of a misstep and a potential fall through the roof hatch, it is essential to:
- Review and assess where the hatch is installed on the roof. Surprisingly, hatches are often installed on an exterior wall, making the climb out of the hatch onto the roof hazardous as you may be near the roof’s edge.
- Ensure the hatch is installed correctly.
- Review the hatch’s ability to close and open easily.
- Verify that the hatch and connected ladder has remained intact and secured to the roof/wall.
- Additionally, facility maintenance teams and 3rd party workers should be trained to identify hazards associated with rooftop hatches and instructed on how to go about using the appropriate fall protection solutions.
Roof Hatch Safety: Barrier Solution Provides a Safe & Compliant Rooftop
With the help of a local roofing consultant, Walmart selected and specified the Skyline 5004 HatchBarrier solution with the addition of hatch grab bars. The galvanized steel hatch guardrail system provides a safe perimeter when roof workers and maintenance staff are on the roof with the hatch door open. The addition of hatch grab bars added an extra layer of safety, ensuring three points of contact when climbing the hatch ladder and stepping onto the roof. From an installation standpoint, everything about Skyline Group’s hatch barrier solution provided a quick and easy installation. In addition, its modular design allowed for easy and fast transport to the roof while making it possible to fasten the barrier to any roof hatch size.
On this rooftop, due to the hatch opening being placed near the roof’s edge, both Walmart and the consultant wanted to minimize concerns of a fall occurring due to a misstep while exiting the hatch onto the rooftop. As a result, the team also installed a non-penetrating safety rail of 10 feet in length, creating a protective barrier between the hatch and the rooftop’s edge. This would ensure that year-round, the proximity of the hatch to the edge of the rooftop would not pose any danger. With the safety rail being non-penetrating, the installation was quick and easy, with no repairs required to the roof membrane, as the safety rail was stabilized with weighted base plates.