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Safety Meeting Topic:
Avoiding Fall Risk While Installing Solar Panels

Temas de Seguridad:
Evitar riesgos de caídas, al instalar paneles solares

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Safety Meeting Topic

Avoiding Fall Risk While Installing Solar Panels

A 2010 solar panel installation in California turned tragic, when workers did not follow through on their fall protection plan.

In this case, a project pre-plan identified the need for fall protection. During the safety meeting that day, the project manager directed that fall protection was required for this job, due to the slope of the roof and its elevation from the ground. However, when work began, three members of the crew were on the roof with no fall protection in place. And, one of those installers—working within five feet of the roof edge—fell to his death.

Solar panel installation is a dangerous industry. Not only do your employees face the same fall risks as other rooftop workers, they also face additional fall risks specific to their line of work.

What your employees need to know about fall risks

Trip/fall hazards increase with solar panel installation.  Each time a worker installs a solar panel on a roof, less walking space becomes available. Skylights and hatches pose trip hazards for your employees. And, if a skylight is unguarded, a worker could fall right through it.

To mitigate these risks, Cal/OSHA requires fall protection for those working at elevations of seven-and-a-half feet or higher. Fall protection comes in the form of guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems like a harness. If guardrails or safety nets aren’t available, the personal fall arrest system is mandatory. It’s also mandatory any time unguarded skylights are present, regardless of other fall protection methods in use.

What your employees need to do when installing solar panels

Before any work begins, inspect the fall protection equipment. Are there any rips or tears in the harness. Is the guardrail or safety net secure? Are skylights guarded?
Next, survey the rooftop to see if skylights, hatches, or any other rooftop openings are present. Also look for tools and power cords as these also cause trip hazards. Cover or guard any floor holes immediately.

Use cranes, conveyors, or hoisting equipment to bring solar panels up onto the roof. Never carry the panels up a ladder manually. Workers could lose balance and fall off the ladder, taking the solar panel to the ground with them.

At your safety meeting

Since each rooftop is different, companies should have a site specific safety plan in place. They should also conduct a safety meeting prior to beginning any new job. Review and discuss with your employees the specific challenges of the roof, such as the type of roof material they’ll be walking on and how steep it is; and discuss your chosen method of fall protection and ensure everyone knows how it works.

Solar panel installation is more in demand today with the growing popularity of green energy. In California, that demand will only increase as a new law takes effect in 2020.
With the right fall protection and hazard awareness, you can minimize the risk of serious or catastrophic injuries on the job. This safer workplace helps you and your employees better meet the growing solar demand.

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Safety News is produced by State Compensation Insurance Fund to assist clients in their loss prevention efforts. Information or recommendations contained in this publication were obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the date of publication. Information is only advisory and does not presume to be exhaustive or inclusive of all workplace hazards or situations. Permission to reprint articles subject to approval by State Compensation Insurance Fund.

©2018 State Compensation Insurance Fund

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