Steel Roofing

[Guest Contributor: Jon Fast]

You always read about near misses on other job sites, but it seems nothing happens on yours. Well, just a short story to let you know that without the proper procedures and two safety professionals involved there would have been another fall fatality.

Prior to the near-miss incident, I had a meeting with the safety coordinator of the steel company and her foreman that was going to do the work at my job site. They were going to cut some decking and install steel tube for support and re-deck the roof. We surveyed the area on the roof where the work was to be done and decided that a static line rated for 5,000 pounds could be installed near where the decking was to be removed. There would only be one person cutting the decking and so there would be no need to add additional strength to the line to support more than one worker.

The static line was installed the next day and was checked for the proper tie back and use of cable clamps. The static line was now ready to be used as the anchor for the personal fall arrest system the worker would be wearing.

On February 18, 2010 work was proceeding on the deck and also under the deck. The three employees of the steel company had checked their PFAS prior to starting work and all was in good order. If you can imagine the Chevrolet “Bowtie” emblem then you know how the deck was to be cut. All was going smoothly. The middle of the “Bowtie” had been removed leaving the two small pieces of the deck to be cut. About 11AM the employee cut two sides of the remaining small piece of deck and left it attached to the man deck area. He then started to roll up the cord of his grinder to finish the cut and stepped on the small area that he had cut.

The deck immediately gave way because it was only supported on the one end. The employee was attached to the static line and fell about 5’ and almost into the scissor lift that another steelworker was using below him. The reason for the short fall was that his lanyard was caught between the rough edge of the cut and the remaining deck. There was a minor abrasion of the lanyard but that was all.

The employee operating the scissor lift only had to raise the lift up about 12” to “rescue” the worker that had fallen through the unsupported part to the “Bowtie.” Their fall protection plan covered this type of rescue in the appendix of the site-specific fall protection plan for the job site.

Knowing that in 2008 we killed about 2000 workers from falls in the construction industry, I am glad to tell you that if employees are trained and the equipment is installed under the supervision of a competent person and above all if the equipment is used then good things happen. In this case, the gentleman was able to go home to his family later in the day with only an abrasion on his arm and leg that was caused by the rough edges of the decking.

Incidents like this make a believer out of me when it comes to fall protection. It doesn’t pay to take a shortcut with anyone’s life. Sure equipment costs money and in this case, the entire system including the static line was replaced but the man went home which should be the goal of anyone connected with construction and safety.