What is the difference between fall protection on commercial roof and a residential roof?

On this week’s episode, Greg and David answer the question “what is the difference between fall protection on a commercial roof and a residential roof?” The main difference between a commercial and a residential roof is the height that you’re working at. When considering commercial vs residential roofs the pitch is another factor that you should consider. If you’re working for hire at heights, whether residential or commercial, you’re expected to adhere to OSHA requirements.

Residential vs Commercial

The pitch and slope of the roof usually correspond to the type of project you’re working on. Most commercial roofs are completely flat and call for different fall protection anchors and tools than the equipment required for a pitched roof, like those more commonly found in the residential setting. On a pitched roof, the vertical lifeline assembly is a common solution to keep the worker restrained from reaching the roof edge, this is a temporary form of fall protection. On commercial roofs, the fall protection anchors (like a 12″ or 18″ roof anchor) are usually permanently installed. 

OSHA Standards for Roofers

Anytime workers are over 6ft off the ground, they are required tie-off and hold OSHA as law. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1926.501(b)(13) defines the duty to have fall protection in residential construction as the following: “Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6’ (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.”

A Residential Roofer’s Best Tool – The Vertical Lifeline Assembly 

On residential roof projects, a vertical lifeline assembly (VLA) is something you would commonly enlist to add to your fall protection equipment. VLAs are typically found in a fall protection bucket kit with a harness and reusable roof anchor. The VLA is made up of a high-strength poly-rope with self-locking snap hook and a rope grab positioning device for you to use as your connector.

You may use a VLA in fall arrest applications, stopping a worker who is already in the process of falling to bring their body to a halt, but they are most used in fall restraint scenarios where the worker operates within a limited amount of space and the system stops them from reaching a dangerous fall hazard.

Hazard Assessments 

It’s extremely important, not matter how big or small the job is, to perform a hazard assessment on the workspace. Conducting a hazard assessment helps to make sure you don’t encounter any fall hazards that surprise you on the job.

A simple hazard assessment can be completed in a day, and its positive effects can be felt for years. The effects can be measured in the health and safety of your employees and in accident-free days on the job.

The Malta Dynamics Hazard Assessment checklist offers a template for you to assess the fall hazards at your jobsite, so you’ll know where your workers are most likely to be in danger of a fall. Armed with this knowledge, you can engineer solutions to mitigate the risks, and train and equip your workers with PPE that will help to avoid serious incidents and injuries.

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