“I Fell Off the Roof Today”
Imagine being the loved one of someone who said the above.
In a video placed online a few years ago, a roofer called “Isidro” shared his experience while working on the roof of a three-story building.
“Isidro” lost his balance but, fortunately, not his life, because his employer had given him fall-protection paraphernalia, and Isidro had used it properly. Photos in the video reveal Isidro, stunned but unhurt, dangling over the roof’s edge, his fall stopped nearly instantaneously because of his safety equipment.
As Isidro put it, “The first thing I did on the roof is install an anchor above. I already had my harness on. I had everything on, everything in place. You will never see me on a site untied. We all have family. So protect yourself.”
Roofing Accident Facts
Construction work of all varieties comprises many of the jobs Americans do every day, and roofing makes up a big part of construction. It should be no surprise that roofing ranks sixth out of the top ten most risky jobs, and fifth-highest when it comes to the death rate in construction, with 29.9 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. This figure is roughly twice the death rate for all construction work.
When it comes to falls, about one-third of deaths resulting from construction falls are from roofs. Within the roofing industry itself, fully three-fourths of all deaths arise from falls. In Maryland during 2014, about 16 percent of all workplace accidents were because of falls, slips, and trips, many of them on roofs.
Another 11 percent of roofing deaths are due to the electrocution of workers, mostly from contacting overhead power lines. And, while rarely deadly, severe burns from hot tar are a risk in certain kinds of roofing jobs where tar is needed.
Roofing injuries and deaths are, sadly, not all that rare. But it seems that a number of them involve negligence on the part of the employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited a company for ten serious safety violations after a worker fell 45 feet to his death in Jenkintown, PA (just outside Philadelphia), during a June, 2013 accident. In April 2016, a man in York, PA, died after falling 50 feet while working on a roof. The contractor is based in Delaware. OSHA is investigating.
Deadly Worksite Falls
The deadliest accidents on construction sites are known as the “Fatal Four”: (1) falls; (2) electrocution; (3) getting caught between objects; and (4) being struck by objects. As we’ve noted, two of the Fatal Four—falls and electrocution—cause almost all the deaths in the roofing industry. Let’s look at what causes most falls among roofing workers:
- Slipping on scaffolding, ladders, or roofs
- Losing one’s balance due to lifting heavy objects while navigating a possibly-uneven surface
- Losing one’s balance because scaffolding or other planking is not secure, or collapses
- Losing one’s balance while climbing, bending, or kneeling
- Not being supplied with, or not wearing, adequate fall-protection equipment.
Roofing’s Preventable Tragedies
The sad thing is, in the Jenkintown, PA, accident, the violations that the company was cited for were easy to change or fix, and would clearly have saved a life. The violations included such things as:
- Ensure that only one person, not two, work from a scaffold intended to support only one.
- Provide fall protections for those working on the scaffold.
- Restrain and stabilize the ends of the scaffold platform.
- Supply the proper kind of rope lifeline for employees.
- Supply the appropriate anchorage points when using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).
According to OSHA, ladders, scaffolding, lifts, and other equipment need to be properly constructed and configured for the safety of roofing workers. But, while these supports and protections are critical to preventing injuries and deaths, the last line of defense for the individual worker is the personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). The PFAS is made up of three components: the anchorage, the full-body harness, and the lifeline. All three must be in use; but because a PFAS can be complicated, everyone needs training on how to wear and use the PFAS safely. Additionally, workers at risk of falls also need to be properly trained in general fall safety, and trained to use fall restraint systems and guardrail systems, where they are in use.
If you work in the roofing industry, you should be aware that using a PFAS in many situations, and receiving general training in fall prevention, is mandated by law.
Remember “Isidro,” whom we mentioned at the beginning of the article? Imagine what might have happened to him without his PFAS. Instead, he survived his fall off the roof.
Injured on the Job? Call A Local Baltimore Work Injury Lawyer.
Equipment malfunctions, co-worker negligence, and bad decisions can place workers at risk. Construction accident cases can be complex, with numerous parties and issues. Find out whether your case could yield compensation above and beyond workers’ compensation.
Steve Heisler has devoted 25 years to helping injured people and their families pursue compensation from those who caused them to be injured. Steve approaches each case with compassion and thorough investigation, leaving no stone unturned in his goal of obtaining justice for persons harmed by the actions or inactions of negligent employers, manufacturers and sub-contractors. If you or your loved one has been injured or killed in a work-related accident anywhere in Maryland, call the Baltimore injury lawyers of the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler today at (410) 625-4878, or use our online contact form. The initial consultation is always free.