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Protect yourself while roofing with a personal fall arrest system

If you do roofing work within the construction industry, you may be used to the tall heights - but you should still be cautious of them. Falls from roofs account for one-third of all fall-related construction worker fatalities.

To minimize the risk of falls, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) generally requires employers to provide fall protection for workers at risk of falling from 6 feet or higher. Read on to learn about how a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) could be used to help keep you safe at work.

What is a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)?

When used properly, a PFAS should "arrest" a fall, preventing the worker from falling down and hitting the ground or a lower level. The equipment should also be unrestrictive, allowing workers to continue operating efficiently, despite the heights.

A PFAS has three major components:

  • An anchor that a lanyard's snap hook can be attached to
  • A full-body harness worn by the worker
  • A "lifeline" or lanyard, which serves as a connector between the harness and the anchorage

The lanyard used is normally shock-absorbing or self-retracting.

PFAS Requirements

OSHA requirements for PFAS's help ensure that the devices are used properly to make roofing safer. According to safety guidelines, fall arrest systems must:

  • Be designed to prevent a worker from free falling more than 6 feet
  • Utilize an anchorage capable of supporting 5,000 pounds per worker attached
  • Be designed, installed and used under the supervision of a qualified person
  • Be set up so that anchors are attached to a structural member (drive fasteners through the sheathing and into rafter or truss member below)

Workers should also ensure that PFAS's are safe by wearing a harness that fits snugly and has the D-ring attachment centered between their shoulder blades.

To keep workers safe, employers should:

  • Ensure fall clearance distance is high enough from the ground or a lower level
  • Remove the potential for a "pendulum effect," in which a work could swing into a nearby object during a fall

Warnings

During roofing work, construction employees should keep the following warnings in mind:

  • Do not use a body belt instead of a harness
  • Do not attach anchors to sheathing, single trusses or a guardrail
  • Do not reuse fall arrest equipment that was used in a fall unless it has been inspected and approved by a competent person

If you have been injured in a roofing accident or another type of fall at work, contact an attorney to discuss your situation. You may be eligible to cover medical costs, lost wages and other damages with workers' compensation.

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