August 19, 2020

Skylight Safety FAQs – Part One

The Skylight Defender safety screen is a must-have to ensure rooftop safety. We have put together a series of the most relevant and frequently asked questions about the Skylight Defender and issues relating to skylight safety. You can also read more about the Skylight Defender here.

Are skylights safe?

Without proper fall protection measures, any uncovered skylight is a serious fall hazard. Skylights are designed to withstand the forces of nature, including snowfall, rain and hail, but they are not designed to handle a person’s body weight. OHSA requires that every skylight should be treated as equivalent to a hole or opening and, as such, should be covered by a skylight safety screen or surrounded by a skylight guardrail.

Do skylights deteriorate with time?

Yes. Over time and with exposure to the sun and other environmental factors, plastic skylights are susceptible to deterioration, making them an even more serious fall hazard. This highlights an even greater need for skylight protection.

How long do skylight windows last?

Typically, skylight windows can last anywhere between 10 and 25 years. However, skylight windows can be prone to damage from weather conditions like hail or leakages. That is why it is important to have them inspected on a regular basis by a professional roofing contractor or manufacturer.

However long your skylight window is due to last, it should still have a protective skylight screen or railing. This will not extend the lifespan of the window itself, but it will definitely protect anyone on the rooftop from falling through the skylight.

What is a skylight safety screen?

A skylight safety screen (or skylight protector) is a steel mesh screen that covers a skylight in order to protect rooftop workers from falling through. The mesh is often made of galvanized steel, stainless or aluminum and is designed to last.

Do I need to cover a skylight with a safety screen?

Under Ontario law, skylights are considered to be a hole in a roof. Most skylights are not rated for safety as many of them are older. Even newer, safety-rated skylights often still do not meet current standards. Standards also continue to be updated, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest requirements.

Skylights are often composed of plexiglass, which can break easily if someone were to fall on it. Materials like plexiglass also deteriorate over time, decreasing the safety rating further. A skylight can only be considered legally safe if covered by a safety screen or if a skylight guardrail is erected around it.

How much weight can a skylight hold?

Most skylights – especially older ones without any kind of skylight safety rating – are not designed to handle the weight of a person falling. Even newer skylights that claim to be load-bearing are often not up to code.

OSHA requires that skylights can handle at least 200 pounds of pressure at any given point on the skylight surface, with Canadian and CAL-OSHA requirements even higher. To meet this requirement, most skylights will require additional protective measures such as a skylight safety screen or guardrail. CAL-OSHA, and some other regional requirements in Canada, such as Ontario, mean the screens have to handle a far greater than 200-pound loading. In Canada, snow loadings on the screens also have to be taken into consideration

Does a newer skylight need a safety screen or guardrail?

Newer skylights are often now safety rated and, therefore, more expensive. However, even despite the extra cost, a new skylight is still not guaranteed to meet current safety standards. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that due diligence is met and that a rooftop site is rendered safe. This often necessitates the installation of either a skylight safety screen or skylight guardrail, even on newer skylights.

Can I install a skylight safety screen by myself?

In general, anyone going onto a rooftop to conduct work should be an individual who has been trained in appropriate rooftop safety practices. Installing a skylight safety guard or safety railing is a task best left to the professionals.

What services do you offer to ensure skylight safety?

There are three options that would put you in compliance with Canadian regulations, and two of those are viable options that we can supply to you.

W.S. Safety offers the Skylight Defender screen protection that goes over the skylights, providing a strong defence against any falling load. We also offer non-penetrating guardrails that go around the skylight, providing extra essential skylight protection.

Under the law, you can also replace the skylight with a load-rated skylight. However, this is a service we do not currently offer.

How do you choose the best way to cover a skylight?

Choosing the best safety solution for your skylight has to do with the cost-effectiveness and suitability of the solution to your individual needs. OSHA’s answer is that skylight safety screens and skylight guardrails are both considered viable options but differ in applicability as well as cost.

Safety screens are cheaper and are a passive solution, meaning that employers will not need to train or certify workers to manage them following installation. Several factors that will affect your choice include whether the roof is flat or sloping, how much space there is on the roof, and whether or not the skylight has a hinged venting system that requires a certain amount of space above the window pane. Our professional team can advise you on the best solution for your situation.

Talk to us today about providing the best skylight protection for your workplace.

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