Why should you buy a skylight safety screen?

To ensure safety for workers on rooftops, OSHA requires that every skylight on any given rooftop worksite has an appropriate safety screen or roof guardrail system to prevent possible falls.


While any uncovered hole on a rooftop would easily be recognized as a possible hazard, glass or plastic skylights may not immediately seem to pose a similar risk.


However, the reality is that most skylights are not designed to be weight-bearing and can pose a serious fall hazard if left uncovered by a safety screen.

Why do you need skylight screens?

Unsettling numbers of case studies tell harrowing stories of workers being injured or dying by falling through skylights. One worker at a manufacturing company died after falling through an uncovered skylight while clearing snow off the rooftop. Another - just 14 years old - died while pulling up roof tiles after tipping over backwards and falling through a skylight to a concrete floor.


These stories - and many more like them - are even more tragic because they are easily avoidable with the proper protection. Skylight screens like the Skylight Defender can save lives.


Any skylight without an appropriate screen or roof guardrail system poses a serious fall risk. If the skylight is older and has not been maintained, or has experienced damage (for example, due to inclement weather), any cracks or rusting cause the hazard to be even greater.


Falls from heights remain an ongoing problem for many worksites. Sadly, most of these incidents are avoidable with the right safety measures. Skylight screens are an important part of ensuring rooftop safety, as well as protection from hail, strong winds and other damage that can happen to skylights due to weather conditions.

Skylight Safety Fall Protection

OSHA clearly defines a skylight as a “hole” or “opening”. Whether or not it is covered by glass or plastic does not change this definition or the safety requirements necessary to protect workers from falls.

OSHA 1910.23

According to OSHA:

...skylights in the roof of buildings through which persons may fall while walking or working shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides.  1910.23(a)(4)

All rooftop workers need to be trained in fall protection measures and equipped with personal safety fall protection equipment. However, skylight protectors or rail applications are an additional measure required by law. Without them, employers can face lawsuits and enormous fines if their workers are injured or killed. You can read more about OSHA’s skylight safety requirements here.

Skylight Safety Screens and Roof Guardrail Systems

As we’ve seen, OSHA requires that workers be protected from falls through skylights by installing a skylight safety screen or rail application that meets all safety requirements. Let’s take a quick look at what skylight safety screens and roof guardrail systems have to offer.

Safety screens

Skylight safety screens come in a multitude of sizes with customizable options, and can be used on any rooftop. They are especially suitable for sloping roofs, whereas a roof guardrail system is better suited for flat or low-slope rooftops.


The safety screens are typically composed of a wired mesh that is strong enough to withstand heavy pressure at any given point on the skylight but are also designed to continue allowing light through. They are a more viable option for space-restricted roofs than rail applications, which OSHA requires meet a minimum height of 42 inches.


Skylight screens provide workers with safety by completely covering the skylight, rather than by creating a surrounding barrier. This does make the safety screens more visible when looking up from inside a building, so they are often used as a covering for more opaque skylight windows. However, the mesh covering still allows for light to penetrate.


As mentioned before, all OSHA-compliant skylight screens have to withstand at least 200 pounds of pressure applied perpendicularly at any given area. In California, this requirement increases to 400 pounds.


Skylight safety screens do not penetrate surfaces, meaning they can be attached using compression and without drilling. They are attached to the sides of the base of a skylight and clamped into place.


Installation is generally very straightforward and can be done within about half an hour.

Roof guardrail systems

Rather than provide a cover on a skylight, modular skylight rail applications provide a surrounding barrier which is designed to signal the hazard clearly and prevent workers from entering the area or falling in.


Roof guardrail systems such as the Safety Rail 2000 are typically very customizable and can be set up in various configurations around most skylight openings on a rooftop. They are an easy solution that provides workers with the protection they need when working around skylight holes.


Roof guardrail systems around a skylight are often used during temporary construction as they can be installed and disassembled quite easily as necessary. Like safety screens, the rail applications can be installed without drilling into the rooftop surface.


Unlike safety screens, rail applications around a skylight are not visible from the floor below. This can make them a more preferable aesthetic choice for skylight windows that are not opaque.


Rail applications are up to three or four times more expensive than skylight screens. They are, however, often the only viable option for hinged venting skylights that require a certain amount of space above the pane.

Skylight Defender Safety Screen

Our top choice in skylight safety screens, the Skylight Defender is an OSHA compliant skylight screen that can be installed easily in less than a half an hour. The safety screen has been engineered specifically to prevent falls through skylights and exceeds the OSHA requirements for fall protection. It can withstand at least 200 pounds of applied pressure perpendicularly and 400 pounds perpendicularly at any given area on the screen.


In addition to offering customizable sizing, the Skylight Defender safety screen attaches to the roof using compression and does not require drilling. This avoids any compromisation of the roof membrane or any weatherproofing or covering on the skylight itself.


Protect your workers and avoid unnecessary tragedies, lawsuits, and fines. Learn more about the Skylight Defender safety screen and how it can help you meet your workplace safety needs here.