Skylight Safety and Fall Protection

Options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights include guardrails and skylight covers. Photos: Malta Dynamics

The importance of fall protection for employees working at heights needs little introduction: falls remain one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities in general industry and construction. One fall hazard in particular can be especially dangerous to construction workers on roofing jobsites: skylights.

Skylights are a popular feature in modern architecture, which tends to emphasize natural light and an unobstructed view of the sky. Skylights are increasingly becoming a part of the rooftop designs of homes and commercial buildings of all kinds, particularly in high-end construction.

Because of their prevalence, skylight hazards for construction workers have earned special attention from regulators and advocacy groups. A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) alert from the Centers for Disease Control cites hundreds of lost-time injuries and dozens of fatalities caused by workers falling through skylights, existing roof openings, and existing floor openings. Most of these injuries occurred in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report highlights the dangers of skylight-related falls during snow removal, when the skylights may be covered with snow and their positions can become difficult to judge. The report also cited several cases of falls related to skylights that were unguarded or unsecured during construction or repairs on a roof.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed standards intended to safeguard workers—particularly in construction and general industry — who operate near skylights and roof and floor openings. OSHA 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(4) states: “Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.”

Thankfully there are many options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights. Let’s consider each of the types of solutions that OSHA recommends.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

A personal fall arrest system should include a full body harness; connectors such as a self-retracting lifeline (SRL), shock-absorbing lanyard, or vertical lifeline assembly; and an appropriate anchor point on the roof. There are permanent and temporary options when it comes to roof anchors. Which you choose will depend on whether you intend to install the anchor fixture permanently — if you own the building, for example — or simply need an anchor temporarily for a short-term job. Permanent anchors can be installed in wood, steel, and concrete surfaces, whereas reusable anchors can be installed with screws or nails and then removed with minimal damage to the roof.

Temporary fall protection options include towable free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers.

There are several good temporary options for fall protection anchors in rooftop applications that do not puncture the roof’s surface, including roof carts and mobile fall protection units. A roof cart can be pulled around the roof’s surface to provide anchorage to workers where it is needed; these typically use friction or puncture the roof in order to arrest a fall. Mobile fall protection units include road-towable, free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers up to 34 feet in the air without damaging the roof’s surface even in the event of a fall.

Covers

Covers must meet the criteria set out in OSHA Standard 1926.502(i)(2): “covers shall be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.” This means that a cover must be able to support the weight of all workers who may be using the cover, plus all their gear and tools, times two. Covers need to be clearly marked either by color coding or with a word such as “HOLE” or “COVER.” A cover also must be secured in such a way that wind, equipment, or the employees are not able to move it.

Guardrails

Guardrails are a great way to partition off areas where skylights present a fall risk, especially for rooftops where snow cover may obscure a worker’s view of the hazardous area. Guardrails are classified as hazard barriers, acting as a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard. Portable, free-standing, and non-penetrating safety rail systems can be used as flat-roof fall protection along skylights and roof perimeters. These systems are easy to install and allow work crews the versatility to work around the existing infrastructure.

In addition to preparing the jobsite with appropriate covers or guardrails and outfitting workers with the necessary personal fall arrest systems, there are several general steps employers can take to identify and mitigate the risk of falls through skylights or roof and floor openings:

  • Assign a Competent Person to inspect the worksite before work begins to identify fall hazards and provide recommendations on what fall prevention system(s) workers should use for the job.
  • Conduct periodic inspections to ensure workers are using their fall protection equipment consistently and correctly, and that fall prevention systems such as covers and guardrails are being properly used and maintained.
  • Train each worker who may be asked to work on a rooftop to enable them to recognize fall hazards and become familiar with the procedures and equipment needed to minimize their risks.

Having adequate personal fall arrest equipment, covers, and guardrails — or a combination of these — in place whenever a worker ascends to the roof to complete construction or maintenance work will go a long way in keeping your team safe. You can go further by training your team and making sure the equipment and processes that are provided are being used consistently and correctly. A little extra effort will help to save lives and prevent injuries.

About the author: David Ivey is the Product Engineering Manager for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering of all mobile fall protection and custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact divey@maltadynamics.com.

Interesting Times

“Stay safe.”

“Take care.”

“Hope you are healthy and safe.”

Work correspondence has taken on a different tone in the last couple of months as events have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s touching. People have been so kind in their responses. It puts me in mind of the gruff but friendly desk sergeant in the 1980s TV series “Hill Street Blues,” who would end every pre-shift meeting — no matter how chaotic — with this reminder: “Let’s be careful out there.”

When I emailed safety expert Richard Hawk to thank him for his column in our last issue, he responded, “There is a centuries old Asian saying that is both a blessing and a curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ It fits now, huh?” 

It does. The business landscape and most work environments are changing rapidly. In this issue you’ll see case studies and technical columns, as well as several articles geared specifically to coping with the coronavirus pandemic as the roofing industry continues to fulfill its indispensable role in maintaining our infrastructure.

This issue contains advice for employers coping with the fallout of COVID-19 from Benjamin Briggs and Elliot Haney at Cotney Construction Law. You’ll find tips from contractors like Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing and Steve Little of KPost Roofing & Waterproofing, who had to come up with creative solutions to meet new jobsite regulations and keep business flowing. You’ll also see the story of a roofing manufacturer that found a way to help meet critical shortages of medical personal protective equipment.

Duro-Last CEO Tom Saeli told me how a team of employees at Duro-Last came up with the idea to use the company’s materials and equipment to make medical gowns and masks for area hospitals. He also assured me his company was doing all it could to ensure employees manufactured the equipment safely — including maintaining social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the plant and equipment, providing masks and face shields, and taking everyone’s temperature.

At Roofing, we are committed to maintaining our role as “the industry’s voice” through our glossy print issue and digital edition, as well as our website and e-newsletter. Tom Saeli noted Duro-Last was sharing its story in the hopes that it would inspire others to help. If you have a story you’d like to share, please let us know.

And hey — let’s be careful out there.

Duro-Last Quickly Retools to Manufacture Medical Supplies During Pandemic

Duro-Last reformulated its flexible PVC membranes and retooled equipment to manufacture medical gowns and masks to help hospitals facing equipment shortages. Photos: Duro-Last

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, hospitals all over the world found themselves facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). The state of Michigan was hit hard by the virus, and as news of critical supply shortages hit the media, team members at Saginaw, Michigan-based Duro-Last, Inc., came together determined to figure out a way to help.

According to Duro-Last CEO Tom Saeli, the group quickly developed a plan to manufacture medical PPE. “The genesis was that a small group of employees got together — people from engineering, sales, manufacturing, and R & D — and they were well aware of the crisis and the dire need for medical personal protective equipment at the hospitals. They got together on their own accord and came up with the idea to try to make medical gowns and non-surgical masks using our materials, processes and equipment.”

The meeting happened on Friday, March 20, and the group continued to work on it the next day. “On Saturday, they called me and said, ‘We’re making these because we know there’s a need,’” Saeli recalls. “I can’t take credit for any of this.”

Saeli, a member of the board of trustees at Beaumont Health, was in the perfect position to connect the team with the hospital. “We are well aware that Beaumont was the epicenter of the crisis in southeast Michigan for COVID-19 patients,” says Saeli. “I called them on Saturday, told them what we were doing, and the rest happened very quickly.”

Initial designs for masks and gowns were based on photos and schematics in the public domain. “Our people went up and down I-75 with gown and mask designs over the next few days, and they really nailed down a design that worked for Beaumont. By the following Friday, we were manufacturing product.”

Meeting a Need

The company, well known for manufacturing flexible PVC roofing membranes, converted equipment normally used to make roofing products for another use. “We have some very creative, clever people,” Saeli says. “Because we do so much custom fabrication, we were able to retool some of our equipment to manufacture this design for gowns and masks.”

The non-surgical masks, made from polyester and PVC, are washable and reusable. The gowns are made from flexible, transparent PVC and can be sanitized and reused.

The membrane itself was reformulated. The hospital gowns are made from flexible, transparent PVC that is 6 mils thick. The gowns are water- and fluid-repellant, and they can be sanitized and reused. The masks, made from polyester and PVC, can be washed and reused. Feedback from the hospital has been overwhelmingly positive. “There’s a big demand,” Saeli says. “We’re getting calls from all over the country for gowns and masks. There is also a trend for wearing masks in everyday life, including at jobsites, so the demand is just going to continue to increase. We are manufacturing 24 hours a day right now at our Saginaw plant, and it’s keeping more than 60 people employed.”

Duro-Last is looking to expand the capability to its seven plants across the country, but profit is not a motivator in this case. “We didn’t enter this for financial gain,” Saeli says. “We aren’t making a profit on this. We just did it because we saw a need that had to be served. It does help to employ some people, which is great as well. But the profit we are getting is an emotional profit, if you will. We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to be doing right now.”

The tight time frame to get the designs approved and equipment ready was probably the biggest challenge, according to Saeli. “It was the fastest product development I’ve ever seen,” he says. “The team just powered through any issues that came up. The mindset of our employees is to be very entrepreneurial, which goes back to our founder, John R. Burt. We are unique in our industry. We are the only ones who do custom fabrication. We’ve got a very entrepreneurial spirit that we encourage all the time. The DNA of our business is to take on challenges and come up with new ideas.”

As the products are being made, the company is taking precautions to ensure they are being manufactured safely. “For the last five weeks, we’ve been practicing social distancing,” Saeli notes. “We’ve been taking everyone’s temperature with a thermal forehead scanner when they come in and throughout the day. We clean and sanitize all of our equipment. We had our plant professionally disinfected. We are trying to do everything in our power to protect our employees.”

Duro-Last is encouraging other companies join the fight. “We had a call with SPRI, which includes many manufacturers in the industry, including our competitors, and we spoke with 25 people from around the county to tell others what we did, share our design with them, and encourage other companies to get involved any way they could in their local markets.”

The company is sharing the news with the media for the same reason. “We wanted to demonstrate to others that if a roofing manufacturer could do something, everyone else should look at it as well,” Saeli says. “We are sharing our story to encourage others to jump in and help any way they can.”

How Employers Should Respond to COVID-19

As COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) continues to affect our daily lives, it is crucial for employers to be aware of the measures the government is taking to reduce infection, how those measures affect your business, and the protocols your business needs to implement to ensure you are complying with what is required. Because the national response is changing daily, it is important to remain up-to-date on new laws, regulations, and government mandates as they rapidly begin taking effect.

Employer Screening and Examinations

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) referred employers to an advisory opinion the EEOC published in 2009 amidst the H1N1 (“swine flu”) outbreak. In its 2009 advisory opinion, the EEOC implemented a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), taking the position that illnesses related to global pandemics are dissimilar to the disabilities that the ADA was designed to protect, and calling for more flexibility in allowing employers to conduct medical examinations and screenings in the workplace provided the employer reasonably believes such action is necessary to address a direct threat to the health or safety of the workplace.

The EEOC subsequently announced that the spread of COVID-19 qualifies as a “direct threat” allowing employers to conduct employee examinations and screenings to ensure the health and safety of others in the workplace. During these examinations, an employer may ask an employee if he or she is experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms or has been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms. The employer may also inquire about the employee’s recent travel history or the reason for any recent work absence. The EEOC has also authorized employers to take employee’s temperatures to determine if their employee has a fever, which is a symptom of COVID-19.

Ultimately, any medical information employers receive from an employee during one of these screenings, examinations, or otherwise, must remain confidential. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform other employees about their potential exposure to the virus, but the identity of the infected employee must remain confidential to the extent possible.

With that being said, employers must be careful not to violate any state, federal, or local laws when implementing new protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For instance, employers should implement all such protocols uniformly amongst all employees to avoid violating anti-discrimination laws (e.g., if an employer chooses to send an employee home for exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, it should also send home all other employees exhibiting such symptoms). Further, any questions asked during employee screenings must be related solely to the possibility of workplace exposure to COVID-19, and must avoid inquiries into unrelated health conditions or disabilities.

Workplace Safety Standards

The General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to keep their workplaces free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. While it remains to be seen whether OSHA considers COVID-19 to be a “recognized hazard,” employers would do well to treat COVID-19 as such, and take reasonable steps to mitigate or eliminate the hazard. Accordingly, employers must be cognizant of potential health risks posed by certain employees and implement protocols for employees to remain safe during a potential outbreak. Additionally, COVID-19 may be considered a recordable illness pursuant to 29 C.F.R. 1904 – Subpart C. For example, an outbreak of an infectious disease or similar illness occurring at a medical facility may be considered a recordable illness, under the Code of Federal Regulations, if such an outbreak is an illness resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment. Please note, however, that the Bloodborne Pathogens standard found in 29 C.F.R. 1910.1030, which requires employers take certain measures during the outbreak of a bloodborne pathogen, does not apply in the response to COVID-19.

Employers may visit OSHA’s website (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html), which provides an employer’s guide to COVID-19 for more general guidelines and tips for maintaining a safe workforce during this outbreak.

Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance to employers regarding when to send employees home and/or prohibit them from returning to work for COVID-19 related reasons. While the CDC guidelines are discretionary for many employers, they represent valuable resources and standards for employers to utilize amidst this unprecedented pandemic.

Employee Pay and Benefits

The recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) includes two significant laws of which employers should be aware: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act: Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees are generally required to provide employees paid sick leave if the employee is unable to work because the employee is:

  1. Subject to a government quarantine or isolation order;
  2. Following the advice of a healthcare professional to self-quarantine;
  3. Experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. Caring for an individual subject to a government order set forth in (1) above, or who has been advised by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine as set forth in (2) above;
  5. Caring for a child whose school or childcare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions; or
  6. Is experiencing “any other substantially similar condition specified by the secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the secretary of the treasury and the secretary of labor.” (While the Secretary of Health and Human Services has not yet specified conditions it considers “substantially similar,” the FFCRA empowers the Secretary to do so in the near future.)

The amount of emergency paid sick leave you must pay an employee depends on the employee’s reason for leave. If the employee is entitled to leave under reasons 1 through 3 above, the employee must receive his or her regular pay rate, capped at $511 per day (and $5,110 in the aggregate). On the other hand, if the employee is entitled to leave under reasons 4 through 6 above, you are only required to pay the employee two-thirds of his or her regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day (or $2,000 in the aggregate).

Full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave, while part-time employees are entitled to the equivalent of the average hours they work during a two-week period.

Employers may not require an employee use any accrued sick leave or paid time off in lieu of, or before, using the paid sick leave to which an employee is entitled under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Employers must also post in a “conspicuous” workplace location a notice containing information regarding the requirements of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Copies of the notice are available on the DOL’s website.

Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act: The Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) amends the pre-existing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to add one new qualifying reason for job-protected leave: when employees are unable to work (or telework) because they must care for their child whose school or childcare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions. Generally, this new basis for family leave applies to all private employers with fewer than 500 employees and to any employee who has worked for the employer for at least 30 days.

An employee receiving emergency family leave under this new law is entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave with continuing group health insurance coverage. The first two weeks of emergency family leave is unpaid, after which the employer must pay the employee two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate, capped at $200 per day (or $10,000 in the aggregate), for any additional emergency family leave the employee takes.The employee’s emergency family leave will end when the employee’s need for leave ends or when the employee has exhausted his or her 12 weeks of leave. When the employee’s emergency family leave ends, the employer generally must reinstate the employee to either his or her same position or an equivalent position.

Small Business Exemption: Companies with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the requirement to provide paid leave to employees who seek leave to care for a child whose school or childcare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions. While this represents a limited exemption to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (small businesses must still provide paid sick leave for the remaining five qualifying reasons), it represents a complete exemption to the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act. To qualify for the small business exemption, an authorized officer of the company must determine that one of the following is true about the employee’s leave request: (1) payment of leave will cause the business’ expenses/liabilities to exceed available revenues; (2) the employee requesting leave has specialized skills, knowledge, or responsibilities, such that their absence would entail substantial risk to business operations; or (3) there are insufficient workers available to perform the work of the employee requesting leave and the work is essential to operations.

Mass Layoffs

If your business is covered by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, you are generally required to provide affected employees at least 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff or plant closure as defined by the Act. However, the normal 60 days’ notice may not apply if the mass layoff or closure is due to the effects of COVID-19 if that reason meets the “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception to the WARN Act. However, even where the unforeseeable business circumstances exception applies, a covered business is still required to give its employees as much notice as is reasonably practicable. Employers should also be mindful of potential state laws similar to the Federal WARN Act, and ensure that any mass layoff or closure complies with any such analogous state law.

About the authors: Benjamin Briggs is a Partner at Cotney Construction Law who represents clients in all aspects of labor and employment law. Elliot Haney is an Attorney at Cotney Construction Law who practices in all areas of construction law. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for NRCA, FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

New Bath and Dryer Vent Designed for Shingle Roofs

Lifetime Tool & Building Products LLC introduces the Lifetime Bath-Dryer Vent for shingle and metal roofs. This vent is pleasing to the eye, complements any quality installation, and offers a 50-year product warranty. The proprietary design enables the housing structure to mount to the plate without rivets, fasteners and sealants — common leak points in existing vents. The vent assembly is crimped into the seamless deep-drawn plate with an EPDM gasket, which is designed to guarantee a forever water-tight seal.

The shingle vent plate is 24-gauge galvanized Kynar with 4 inches of flashing on the sides, 6 inches at the top and 3.5 inches at the bottom. According to the manufacturer, most existing vents have less than half of these needed requirements, which exponentially increases the likelihood of edge leaking. In independent laboratory testing, the Lifetime Bath-Dryer Vent exceeded 110 mph in the ASTM T166-18 – Wind Driven Rain Test.

The product features a 24-gauge galvanized Kynar cap that is clad onto a high-temperature polymer with a heat deflection above 212 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the company, this carefully tested premium polymer ensures that the Bath-Dryer Vent retains its mechanical properties for decades of use.

Additionally, the cap assembly is attached with two black oxide stainless fasteners that are easily removed with a screwdriver and 316L stainless clips for easy removal of the cap for periodic maintenance, perfect for multi-family roofs. A gold anodized aluminum damper, preventing white corrosion, and its passivated stainless-steel axle is mounted on the angled structure to ensure condensation drainage and provides protection from wind and rain penetration. Its built-in weep holes, wind walls and recessed EPDM noise bumpers help eliminate clatter. The EPDM bumpers also permit a small amount of warm air to pass between the structure and damper to reduce the chance of condensate freezing. A snap-in high-quality polymer frame has a stainless steel screen included for use in bath venting only.

Finishing the assembly is a proprietary 6-inch-high, 4-inch round, 26-gauge G90 galvanized drop with a unique button punch/window snap connection assembly. A 4-inch/3-inch reducer is also included.

“I am passionate about creating true solutions for roofing components, and I believe that the Lifetime Bath-Dryer Vent is a game changer,” said Roger Cline, Managing Partner and Chief Engineer at Lifetime Tool & Building Products LLC.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.lifetimetool.com

Call: (877) 904-1002

What’s New?

Photo: International Roofing Expo

There’s a running joke I have with a couple of other trade journalists about how the most common sentence uttered at industry trade shows is “What’s new?” The joke isn’t that funny, but it is true. I found myself asking that question a lot at the recent International Roofing Expo (IRE) in Dallas, and I saw a lot of people brighten up as they started to show me their company’s latest offerings.

For me, the sheer number of new products being introduced at the show was the most striking thing about this year’s IRE. The event set records for attendance and the size of the show floor, but it was the new products I will remember most.

Almost every asphalt shingle manufacturer has introduced new developments in the past year, including new polymers that increase strength, hail resistance and flexibility, even in cold weather. New features also include larger and more durable nailing zones. Roof membrane manufacturers have continued to develop new features designed to make their products easier and more efficient to install. Underlayments are more durable, less prone to tearing, and offer better traction. Tools and equipment are being updated to make them simpler and easier to use.

The manufacturers are clearly aiming to address roofing contractors’ key pain points, which include the current labor shortage. In fact, at the IRE the term “labor shortage” might have been uttered almost as often as “What’s new?”

Products that are easier to install mean that there is less likelihood of making mistakes. The learning curve is also reduced, so a new employee in the field can be trained and brought up to speed more quickly. In an era marked by tight labor, promoting someone from field laborer to installer more quickly can be crucial.

We’ll continue to update readers on new product developments in the pages of Roofing as the year goes on. At press time, the COVID-19 coronavirus is currently making headlines, and it is possible a pandemic will be the next force to affect the economy. Right now, the future is uncertain.

Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer to the question, “What’s new?”

Creating a Company That Embraces Diversity and Inclusion

Given the ongoing labor shortage in the roofing industry as well as the national conversation recently sparked by the #Metoo movement concerning sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, never before has the topic of embracing and fostering diversity in the workplace been more important than now. Although there certainly is no one-size-fits-all quick-fix solution to the problem, below are three steps companies can take to help foster a workplace environment that embraces diversity through creating and maintaining a culture of inclusiveness and intolerance of harassment and discrimination of any kind.

Written Policies and Procedures

The first step a company should take to embrace diversity in the workplace is to make sure it has the commitment to diversity, non-discrimination, and non-harassment down in writing for all employees to read and understand. This includes having a written policy, at a minimum in the employee handbook, that clearly states that the company does not discriminate on the basis of any protected class or category and prohibits all employees from discriminating against or harassing any individuals on the basis of their membership in any protected class or otherwise.

The policy should also provide clear, robust reporting procedures for employees to know how and to whom they should report any claims of discrimination or harassment they experience or witness. These reporting policies should not be limited to requiring employees to report claims only to their immediate supervisor, but should instead provide multiple avenues for reporting to upper management and/or HR in case the employee’s immediate supervisor is the accused harasser.

The company’s handbook policy should also state that all complaints of discrimination or harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated by an impartial member of management or HR and will be handled as confidentially as possible.

The handbook should also contain an express provision that prohibits retaliation against anyone who makes a discrimination or harassment claim or who provides verification or support for a claim made by someone else. 

Additionally, the policy should spell out the potential consequences for any discriminatory or harassing behavior, including the possibility of disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Finally, the company’s written anti-discrimination policies should make clear that they apply to everyone in the company including all levels of management and that everyone is expected to comply with them and to uphold the values of the company by reporting any discriminatory or harassing behavior they experience or witness.

Education and Training

The next component needed to create a workplace environment that embraces diversity and inclusion is for the company to educate and provide comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training — preferably live and in person — for all employees, but especially for all management-level employees, on the policies and procedures outlined above.

The company’s training should clearly spell out what is and is not considered harassment and who can be a harasser (managers, co-workers, customers, vendors, individuals of the same sex as the victim, etc.).

Because actions taken (or not taken) by managers and supervisors are imparted to the company, all managers should be thoroughly trained and knowledgeable about the company’s reporting procedures, including how to escalate complaints they may receive up the chain to HR and/or upper management, how to recognize, stop, and address harassing conduct when they see it happening, and how to prevent further harassing behavior from occurring while an investigation is ongoing in such a way that does not punish the complaining employee or prematurely punish the accused harasser before the investigation is completed.

Executive Leadership, Buy-in, and Accountability

Finally, embracing diversity and building a workplace culture of inclusiveness requires executive buy-in, accountability, and support from the top down so that managers feel empowered to enforce the company’s policies and employees trust that they can speak up without fear of reprisal.

Company executives should outwardly champion the company’s non-discrimination and harassment policies, openly and frequently expressing the company’s commitment to diversity and to providing a workplace free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Company leaders should also hold managers and employees accountable by regularly checking in to make sure the company’s policies are being enforced and complied with. This includes ensuring all complaints are being reported up the chain, investigations are being promptly, fairly, and confidentially conducted, and appropriate discipline that actually ends the harassing behavior is being imposed for any established violations of the company’s policies.

Company management should also avoid downplaying or ignoring any bad behavior that may occur or that has occurred in the company’s past and should assure employees that the company takes these issues seriously, does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind, and has mechanisms in place to correct any such behaviors that do not reflect the company’s values.

Although a company that implements the steps above may not see immediate changes in the diversity of its workforce or applicant pool, these steps will go a long way towards building a reputation within the company, the community, and the roofing industry that the company fully embraces and promotes diversity, which should eventually lead to a more diverse and productive workplace environment for the company down the road.

About the author: Marci Britt is an attorney at Cotney Construction Law who practices primarily in labor and employment law. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for NRCA, FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Rotating Deck Anchor Features 360-Degree Self-Orienting D-Ring

The FallTech Rotating Deck Anchor is designed for maximum versatility and safety with a 360-degree self-orienting D-ring for use in temporary fall arrest or restraint applications. The reusable Rotating Deck Anchor is designed for installation onto exposed #10 rebar and threaded rod and is secured with user-supplied rebar wing nut or hex nut.

The anchor is designed for installation onto 1-inch diameter exposed threaded rod or exposed #10 rebar. It features a plated stainless steel anchoring plate, and steel plated D-ring and bushing. Its 360-degree self-orienting D-ring follows the user’s movement. The product requires a user-supplied fastener to complete the installation. According to the manufacturer, the product meets ANSI Z359.18-2017 and OSHA 1926.502,1910.66 requirements.

LEARN MORE

Visit: http://falltech.com

Call: (800) 719-4619

The “Roofers’ Choice” selection is determined by the product that receives the most reader inquiries from the “Materials & Gadgets” section in a previous issue. This product received the most inquiries from our November/December 2019 issue.

How Employers Should Respond to COVID-19

As COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) continues to affect our daily lives, and is now officially considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is crucial for employers to be aware of the steps the government is taking to reduce infection, how those steps affect your business, and the protocols your business needs to implement to ensure you are complying with what is required under these unusual circumstances. Because the national response is changing daily, it is important to remain up-to-date on new laws, regulations, and government mandates that are likely to begin taking effect rapidly.

Employer Screening and Examinations

To a certain extent, the COVID-19 pandemic is largely unchartered territory. However, there are certain laws, regulations, and government advisory statements that may help an employer deal with these complex issues.

In early March 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a statement on the COVID-19 pandemic, referring employers to an advisory opinion the EEOC previously published in 2009 amidst the H1N1 (“swine flu”) outbreak. In its 2009 advisory opinion, the EEOC implemented a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that would otherwise prohibit an employer from taking action based on an employee’s medical conditions. In taking the position that illnesses related to global pandemics are dissimilar to the disabilities that the ADA was designed to protect, the EEOC calls for more flexibility in allowing employers to conduct medical examinations and screenings in the workplace if doing so is “consistent with a business necessity” or if the employer has “a reasonable belief the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety” of others and the workplace.

For example, an employer may institute screenings for employees who exhibit flu-like symptoms in the workplace, but may not make such inquiries to employees who work remotely or do not come into contact with other employees as part of their job description.

Relying on the CDC’s recommendations for employers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are able to screen and examine employees to ensure the health and safety of others in the workplace. The CDC suggests that employees should be screened if (a) they are exhibiting flu-like symptoms such as fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, etc.; (b) the employee recently returned from travel abroad; or (c) the employee is known to have been exposed to a person who is a confirmed carrier of the virus. During these examinations, an employer may ask an employee if he or she is experiencing any flu-related symptoms, what symptoms the employee is experiencing, whether the employee has visited a doctor or has been tested for COVID-19, the employee’s recent travel history, and the employee’s reasoning for any recent work absence.

The CDC and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) advise that employees who exhibit flu-related symptoms can and should be sent home immediately and prohibited from returning to work until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours. If an employee has traveled to a country designated a Level 3 travel risk area (currently China, Iran, South Korea, and much of Europe), it is recommended that the employee be sent home immediately and be required to remain away from the workplace for 14 days. Further, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, it is suggested that all employees who came in contact with that employee are sent home and a professional cleaning company is hired to do a full cleaning of the affected workspace.

Ultimately, any medical information employers received from an employee during one of these screenings, examinations, or otherwise, must remain confidential. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform other employees about their potential exposure to the virus, but the identity of the infected employee must remain confidential to the extent possible.

With all that being said, employers must be careful not to violate any state, federal, or local laws when implementing new protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For instance, employers should avoid taking adverse employment actions (termination, demotion, etc.) against an employee who misses work or is sent home due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Additionally, employers must implement all such protocols uniformly and equally amongst all employees to avoid violating anti-discrimination laws. For example, if an employer chooses to send an employee home for exhibiting flu-like symptoms, it should also send home all other employees exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Workplace Safety Standards

The General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to keep their workplaces free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. While it remains to be seen whether COVID-19 is considered a “recognized hazard” pursuant to 29 U.S.C. 654(a)(1), OSHA standards tend to rely heavily on CDC guidelines, which could consider a pandemic the scale of COVID-19 as such a hazard. Accordingly, employers must be cognizant of potential health risks posed by certain employees and implement protocols for employees to remain safe during a potential outbreak. Additionally, COVID-19 may be considered a recordable illness pursuant to 29 C.F.R. 1904 – Subpart C. For example, an outbreak of an infectious disease or similar illness occurring at a medical facility may be considered a recordable illness, under the Code of Federal Regulations, if such an outbreak is an illness resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment. Please note, however, that the Bloodborne Pathogens standard found in 29 C.F.R. 1910.1030, which requires employers take certain measures during the outbreak of a bloodborne pathogen, does not apply in the response to COVID-19.

Please visit OSHA’s website (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html), which has an employer’s guide to COVID-19, for more general guidelines and tips for maintaining a safe workforce during this outbreak.

Employee Pay and Benefits

In the coming weeks, as more employees either choose to work from home or are required to do so, employers will face challenges regarding employee pay and conditions of employment. Generally speaking, unless otherwise stated in an employee’s contract, employers are not required to provide paid leave or paid time off to employees who are unable to work due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Additionally, employers may require employees forced to take time off during an outbreak to use any accrued paid time off (sick and/or vacation days) during such an outbreak. However, employees must be properly compensated for any work they perform remotely or off-site. Minimum wage and overtime laws remain effective during a pandemic.

If you employ union workers and are requiring such employees stay home from work, to the extent possible, you must bargain in good faith with such employees prior to making any unilateral changes to their employment status or benefits. It is strongly advised that all union-employers familiarize themselves with their respective collective bargaining agreements prior to making any such changes.

If your business is a covered employer under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee who contracts COVID-19 or needs to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has contracted the virus, may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave and a continuation of his or her health insurance benefits during the time that he or she is unable to work because of the virus. Depending on the terms of your leave policy, the employee may choose to use accrued paid leave during his or her FMLA leave, or you may require the employee to do so. According to the DOL, the FMLA does not apply to leave taken by an employee merely for the purpose of avoiding exposure to COVID-19 or to care for a healthy dependent whose school or daycare is closed because of COVID-19. There is currently no federal law addressing private-sector employees who take off from work to care for healthy dependents.

However, in response to COVID-19, the United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill that, if enacted, would expand the scope of FMLA job-protected leave and would require employers to provide paid leave in certain circumstances. It is important for employers to monitor this bill (H.R. 6201) and respond accordingly if it passes. Further, employers should also be mindful that some states have previously enacted their own state family medical leave law, and employers must comply with those analogous state laws where applicable.

Mass Layoffs

If your business is covered by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, you are generally required to provide affected employees at least 60-days’ notice before a mass layoff or plant closure as defined by the Act. However, the normal 60-days’ notice likely does not apply if the mass layoff or closure is due to the effects of COVID-19, as this would likely fall under the “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception to the WARN Act. However, even where the unforeseeable business circumstances exception applies, a covered business is required to give its employees as much notice as is reasonably practicable. Employers should also be mindful of potential state laws similar to the Federal WARN Act, and ensure that any mass layoff or closure complies with any such analogous state law.

About the authors: Benjamin Briggs is a Partner at Cotney Construction Law who represents clients in all aspects of labor and employment law. Elliot Haney is an Attorney at Cotney Construction Law who practices in all areas of construction law. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for NRCA, FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Reflecting on Your Life Will Change the Way You Think About Safety

As part of a “Bring It On Home” safety talk, audience members draw pictures of simple pleasures they enjoy. Photos: Richard Hawk

Tiny loves to play pool. But he can’t. We’ve spent many hours together around a pool table. I’m an avid pool player too. My wife once jokingly told me, “You spend more time with Tiny than you do with me.” I replied, “That’s because he plays pool better than you do!”

I’m praying that one day Tiny will be able to beat me on the table again. You see, on January 23, 2016, just a mile or so from his home Tiny lost control of his car and hit a telephone pole. The impact broke two of his vertebrae, severing part of his spinal cord. (James is his given name. He got the nickname “Tiny” from his dad because he was a “tiny” baby.) Thankfully Tiny didn’t die because of the accident, but he did lose a lot of mobility. Initially he was diagnosed as a quadriplegic, but now he can use his hands, arms and has partial use of his legs. Much of his recovery is due to intensive and painful physical therapy.

During my many years in the safety and health field, I’ve conducted dozens of incident investigations, including ones that involved fatalities. All of them made me sad, but this was the first time such a close friend has had a horrible, life-changing injury. Tiny’s accident gave me a deeper insight into why it’s so important for you and I to take safety seriously on and off the job and why it’s worth the effort to follow safety rules even when they seem inconvenient.

The most common comments victims of horrible injuries relate include “I can’t believe this has happened to me,” and “It’s worse than I expected,” or something similar. Another pool opponent of mine is a roofer. He fell a short distance off a ladder and injured his hip. At first, it wasn’t that big of a deal. But a couple years later he had to get the hip replaced, and an infection set in that nearly cost him his life. He told me that even though he’s been on roofs for more than 20 years, it was a big surprise how serious his injury turned out to be. He said that his injury gave him more respect for what can happen when you fall, even if it’s only a few feet.

One thing we often don’t realize about the consequences of a serious injury is how many different parts of our daily activities it will affect, particularly our simple pleasures. Tiny can’t drive, cook, play pool, take walks, or go to the bathroom the way he did before the accident. And many other personal activities have been taken away from him. His wife has had to alter her life drastically too. Even Tiny’s dog misses his owner’s mobility because Tiny used to walk with him twice a day.

Whether you’re on a roof, platform or inspecting a jobsite, if you have to tie off, set up a barrier or take the time for some other safety precaution that you feel you should skip or isn’t worth the effort, ask yourself if the temporary benefit of saving a few moments and avoiding a minor inconvenience is worth losing a common pleasure you enjoy every day — for the rest of your life.

I’m not a doomsayer or a “safety nerd” who isn’t fun-loving. And I understand as research has shown that “scare tactics” don’t have a strong effect on people’s behavior. That’s why I recommend you think positively about your safe behavior. Feel glad that you have the sense to work safely so you can enjoy simple pleasures with your friends and family.

During my “Bring It On Home” safety talk, I get everyone in the audience to draw a simple pleasure they enjoy regularly. The exercise is humorous because most people don’t have great drawing skills, so there are a lot of stick figures and “what’s that!?” objects on the sheets I give out. But many of the scenes are touching and depict activities with sons and daughters, pets and hobbies.

After holding up and describing a few “masterpieces,” I show a video of an interview I gave with Tiny, which he agreed to of course. (If you would like to see or use the video, just send me a request at richard@makesafetyfun.com.) It’s mostly about some of the things he misses since his accident and how his injury has impacted his simple pleasures. Tiny also talks about the strain it has put on his family and friends.

One topic I include in my “Bring It On Home” talk is the importance of teaching our children about safety. This has a twofold value. One, it helps our children stay safe and prepares them for their adult working life. Second, and much research has shown this to be true, any practices or values you teach your children you’re more likely to follow yourself. That’s not always the case; for example, some parents smoke but tell their children it is bad for them. Generally, however, it does have a positive effect on us when we teach our children positive behaviors.

Being a full-time safety professional while my children were growing up, I regularly taught them about safety. I even taught them how to wear a respirator! You can see from the picture; it took a bit of training to get them to wear their dust masks properly. But even today, after 30-plus years, my children still humorously remember how they were the only kids they knew who wore dust masks while doing yard work with their dad.

Safety involves every aspect of our life, not just what we do at work. That’s why teaching our children about safety, realizing how much a serious injury will affect our enjoyment of our entire life, and how much our families and friends will suffer too from our mishap can help us avoid taking shortcuts or doing something we know is dangerous.

Tiny is slowly getting better. He still mostly gets around in a wheelchair, but with the help of a walker, he can take a few steps. I drive him to rehab on occasions and play chess with him instead of pool. He may be able to drive soon, which is a something he misses dearly. Both of us are still amazed how much his injury has changed his life.

My favorite simple pleasure is drinking coffee with my wife in the morning while watching the birds on our feeders. I don’t want to lose that because I was careless. How about you? What simple pleasure do you protect by being safe on and off the job?

About the Author: Richard Hawk is a vibrant safety culture specialist. He helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so that “nobody gets hurt!” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Hawk’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” ezine have made a huge positive difference in the safety and health field, improving employees’ safety performance. For more information, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.