A General Contractor Develops a Permanent Fall-protection Anchor Roofing Workers Will Use

The HitchClip’s main function is to provide roofing workers with fall protection.

The HitchClip’s main function is to provide roofing workers with fall protection.

Scott Fontaine was a general contractor for 30 years. Every day he was finding solutions to problems on job sites, one of which was convincing crews to wear safety equipment. He decided to put his problem-solving skills to work and created equipment that he could field test on the job. It was this entrepreneurial spirit that developed the HitchClip, a versatile and permanent residential fall-protection anchor.

Made from durable and lightweight powder-coated aluminum, the HitchClip is quick and easy to install (with six screws or six nails). Because it may be permanently installed, the HitchClip not only adds value to any home, but also helps reduce costs for contractors by allowing them to save money on temporary or one-use anchor options.

The HitchClip, which is now available for purchase from Qualcraft Industries, a division of Guardian Fall Protection, comes in black, gray or brown, and its sleek design allows it to easily blend in with nearly any roof. Its patented “key-hole” connection point allows it to be used as a standard fall-protection anchor and in combination with numerous attachment accessories, such as Qualcraft’s Bunk Jack, Roof Jack, Guardrails, Workbench, Platform Stage, Solar Panel Rack Bracket and more.

So far, the reaction in the marketplace has been enthusiastic. “The HitchClip system is widely used by contractors and homeowners alike,” Fontaine explains. “The simplicity and ease of use are a big factor, as well as the wide range of components that the system can utilize. There is no system quite like it.”

The HitchClip can help create a secure workbench on a residential roof.

The HitchClip can help create a secure workbench on a residential roof.

Inventors, though, can sometimes have a romanticized view of the product they’ve spent so much time developing. However, Justin Quick from Roofline Supply & Delivery, Eugene, Ore., says this is not the case with the HitchClip. “Roofers that I have sold HitchClip to love them,” Quick notes. “I like that they are an inexpensive add-on to an order that your customer will come back for over and over again.”

Learn More

Visit www.qualcraft.com.
Call (800) 231-5647.
Watch a HitchClip video.

“Roofers’ Choice” was determined by the product that received the most reader
inquiries from the May/June issue’s “Materials & Gadgets” section.

How Is Your Fall-protection Plan?

Citing “record numbers” of unsafe roofing complaints in the Denver area during the first half of 2014, OSHA began its own outreach efforts and partnered with organizations, like the Colorado Roofing Association (CRA) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to make fall protection a priority among roofers and encourage consumers to hire roofing companies who do.

“In the past six months, we have received 63 complaints related to unsafe work practices, and this is the beginning of roofing season,” said David Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Englewood, Colo.

This emphasis contains two messages: the first to get consumers to hire contractors with a safety plan and good record; the second to prompt roofers to develop and follow safe work practices.

FOR CONSUMERS

Among its efforts, OSHA emphasized that home and business owners should use the OSHA website, CRA and BBB to hire reputable roofing companies with a safe work record without safety violations. OSHA advises consumers ask probing questions of roofing contractor’s safety plans, such as:

    ▪▪ Are the installers your employees or subcontractors?
    ▪▪ Are they insured?
    ▪▪ What is their past work history?
    ▪▪ How will the project be managed?
    ▪▪ What kind of fall protection will be used?

FOR ROOFING CONTRACTORS

For roofing contracting companies, OSHA hosted a 2014 National Safety Stand-Down week on June 2-6 that encouraged employers to stop work for one week to discuss fall hazards and safety measures.

At the end of June, the same OSHA Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota) announced it was going to spend extra energy enforcing safety in roofing following increased construction after a hailstorm.

“Falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds can be prevented by planning ahead, providing the right equipment for the job and by training everyone working on a project to use the equipment safely,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings, Mont.

These efforts demonstrate that roofing companies need to be prepared and committed to an effective fall-protection safety plan and be able to answer questions about it to prevent injuries and protect the company if an accident happens, as well as help win jobs if customers ask about the safety plan.

REVIEW YOUR FALL-PROTECTION PLAN

Considering the reasons for adhering to a comprehensive plan, take a moment and review your fall-protection procedures. This should be done annually, anyway.

Ideally, all potential hazards that could be encountered are eliminated or addressed through proper protection, work practices and training. Often, expertise, past experience or industry standards will point out these potential work hazards that need to be rectified.

According to information provided by OSHA’s outreach, a comprehensive fall-protection plan should include at least preventing falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolding. OSHA stresses the need to plan for safety, provide the correct equipment and ensure everyone is trained in safe work practices. Consider the following:

FALLS FROM ROOFS
Employees need to know when to wear a harness and how to ensure it fits. The proper guardrails and lifelines need to be implemented and used. Employees need to inspect all fall-protection equipment before using it and be able to determine when it is no longer safe. Holes, open stairwells, openings and skylights must be securely covered or guarded.

FALLS FROM LADDERS
Employees must know how to select the correct ladder and the proper way to safely use all ladders. Regardless of the type of ladder, users must maintain three points of contact; always face the ladder; and, without overreaching, secure the ladder on level footing; as well as never stand on the top step.

Extension ladders are not self-supporting and, therefore, need a stable structure and foundation to withstand the load. In addition, the area around the bottom and top of the ladder must have sufficient unobstructed space.

Plan to have an extension ladder that can hold at least four times the weight you intend to put on it. That includes any people and equipment and materials.

Also have a “competent person” visually inspect the ladder and secure the top of the ladder to a solid support. (A competent person is a technical term for someone who has the training and experience to know how to act safely and the authority to make a decision.)

Other safe work practices that should be followed include:

    ▪▪ Check the location of power lines before placing the ladder.
    ▪▪ Stay near the middle of the rungs while going up or down.
    ▪▪ Use barriers while on the ladder to keep traffic away, especially near doors and entryways.
    ▪▪ Only use the ladder for the purpose it was designed.

FALLS FROM SCAFFOLDS
Basic scaffold safety incorporates using fully planked scaffolds and ensuring they are sturdy, plumb and level with all guardrails completed and with stable footing. The scaffold must be used properly and accessed through a properly provided route; users should not climb on cross braces or stand on guardrails. Ladders also can’t be used on top of a scaffold.

A competent person—someone with the experience to recognize hazards and the authority to fix them—must inspect the scaffold before use.

STAY AHEAD OF OSHA

OSHA’s outreach is another example of it using incidents and complaints to focus attention on an industry. But it’s not just roofing contractors who are receiving increased attention.

In February, OSHA contacted communication-tower employers to remind them of their responsibility to train and monitor employee fall protection following 13 deaths in 2013 and four in the first weeks of 2014—a total higher than in the previous two years combined.

Ultimately, OSHA has reason to focus on particular industries, so it’s imperative you ensure your fall-protection program is effective.

OSHA’s Fall Protection Clarifications for Roofers

OSHA’s fall-protection regulations are easy to find (see OSHA 29 CFR, Subpart M, 1926.500 – 1926.503 and four appendixes). Understanding them is a bit more difficult because they apply to a variety of occupations, including roofing.

The following clarifications are OSHA’s responses to questions regarding fall-protection requirements and work practices affect roofers:

ROOF OPENINGS

The “Holes” section of the regulation requires the use of fall protection— personal fall-arrest systems (PFAS), guardrails, safety nets, covers, etc.—when there is a hole in a work/walking surface. Because a roof is a work/walking surface, employees must be protected from falling through. OSHA concluded that immediately securing a cover over a cut hole is sufficient because the cover eliminates the fall hazard requiring fall protection. The rest of the environment may still require fall protection.

SUPPLYING MATERIAL TO THE ROOF

A supplier who delivers roofing material onto a roof must use all available fall protection, meaning a sufficient ladder or other means with a sturdy handhold. A supplier also must wear personal fall-protection equipment and connect to existing anchorage points when receiving and delivering materials on a roof.

If anchorage points do not exist for workers at the site, suppliers are not required to install anchorage points because they spend so little time at the job site. Anchorage points are the primary contractor’s responsibility, and it’s the supplier’s responsibility to use available fall protection.

CONTROLLED ACCESS ZONES

A controlled access zone (CAZ) is a designated work area marked by a warning line that only authorized employees can cross to work next to an unprotected edge. This less-safe approach is explicitly reserved for leading-edge work (the changing unprotected side of a roof or floor as it is installed) and overhand brickwork.

Except for steep roofs (slopes greater than 4-inches vertical to 12-inches horizontal) and non-residential roofing, CAZs are an option if you can prove traditional fall protection is not possible or too dangerous. Just be prepared to justify in writing why other fall protection isn’t effective; identify all authorized employees; and investigate all accidents and near accidents.

Some examples where traditional fall protection fails:

    ▪▪ Safe anchors cannot be provided.
    ▪▪ Lifelines may entangle or mire in grout.
    ▪▪ Fall protection prevents completion of the work.
    ▪▪ Work-area configuration causes ineffective fall-arrest systems.

At the very least, the CAZ must include a safety monitoring system.

USING SAFETY MONITORS ON LOW-SLOPE ROOFS

A safety monitor is a competent person responsible for recognizing and warning employees they are in danger of falling. The monitor counts as part of the fall-protection solution on low-slope roofs.

The following are fall-protection options on low-slope roofs:

    ▪▪ Guardrails
    ▪▪ Safety nets
    ▪▪ PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and guardrails
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety nets
    ▪▪ Warning lines and PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety monitors
    ▪▪ Safety monitors on roofs 50-feet wide or less

The safety monitor must:

    ▪▪ Be competent to recognize fall hazards.
    ▪▪ Warn employees when it appears they are unaware of a fall hazard or are acting unsafely.
    ▪▪ Be on the same work/walking surface as monitored employees and be able to see them.
    ▪▪ Be close enough to talk to the employees.
    ▪▪ Not have any other responsibilities.
    ▪▪ Ensure employees follow warnings and directions.

Also, mechanical equipment can’t be in safety monitoring areas. Because these feasibility exceptions are only listed in specific categories (low-slope roof work, leading-edge work, precast concrete erection and residential construction), if a worker doesn’t fit those categories, such as HVAC installation, the worker must follow conventional fall protection. Alternative plans are generally for situations in which there isn’t a completed structure to attach anchor points; once anchor points are available, OSHA favors regular fall protection.

WARNING LINE FOR NON-ROOFERS

OSHA’s stance on fall protection is that there is no safe working distance away from an unprotected edge. But in an interpretation of workers on a low-slope roof, having just a warning line at least 15 feet from the edge of a roof for non-roofers (HVAC installers) would be considered a “de minimis” violation if non-roofers are prohibited from crossing the warning line. A de minimis violation violates regulations without making the workplace less safe and doesn’t result in a citation.

ASSEMBLING AND INSTALLING ROOFS

OSHA assumes traditional fall protection is safer than creating an alternative plan and has described some industry approaches to assembling and installing roofs without foregoing fall-protection precautions just because an anchor isn’t convenient:

    ▪▪ Assemble the roof on the ground and use a crane to place it.
    ▪▪ Use permanent and reusable roof anchors and reusable truss braces while working from ladders or platforms at both ends to brace the trusses without needing to be on them.
    ▪▪ Once trusses are braced, begin initial sheathing at the eaves with workers on platforms inside the structure, removing braces one at a time. Sheath the last course while tied off to existing wood anchors.

When OSHA regulations meet the real world, they can leave you wondering how they should be interpreted, and roofing is no exception. Hopefully this summary of how OSHA has interpreted fall protection for roofing situations clarifies some of the questions.

Spanish Versions of NRCA Safety Compliance Programs Now Available

With workplace accidents always a concern for roofing contractors, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has released Spanish versions of three of its safety compliance programs: Serving Up Safety: A Recipe for Avoiding Falls on the Job, NRCA’s Material Handling Series: Overhead and Understood and NRCA’s Hazard Communications Program: Know the Signs.

Serving Up Safety: A Recipe for Avoiding Falls on the Job is a comprehensive tool for training new and seasoned roofing workers about all aspects of fall protection for roofing work.

The Spanish version provides everything contractors need to provide to their Spanish-speaking roofing workers so contractors comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) fall-protection requirements for roofing work. The program includes an interactive DVD program explaining all fall-protection rules pertaining to each of the 50 states with about one hour of content per state and printable PDFs of an instructors guide to assist trainers in conducting and delivering informational classroom sessions; a student workbook; and a student handout that summarizes key fall-protection rules and components.

The Spanish version of NRCA’s Material Handling Series: Overhead and Understood gives roofing contractors the tools to train workers so they are in compliance with OSHA’s requirements for crane and hoist operations, signal person qualifications, qualified riggers, forklift operations and working with rooftop powered equipment.

Each module includes a DVD, helmet decals and printable PDFs of an instructors guide, learners manual test and answer key, tailored assessment and training tools, customizable wallet card and certificate of completion.

NRCA’s Hazard Communication Program: Know the Signs helps roofing contractors provide their workers with training required by OSHA for its new Hazard Communications Program, including a DVD, instructors guide and student manual, PowerPoint® presentation for use in facilitating training sessions, written examinations to assess worker comprehension, sample hazard communication program, a chemical inventory list template and safety data sheet request letter for use in developing a company program.

Complete Fall-protection System in a Container

Compliance in a Can from Protecta

Compliance in a Can from Protecta

Compliance in a Can from Protecta is a complete fall-protection system available in a convenient container. The success of the original “can” spawned the creation of several variations with different anchorage devices. Each kit offers a complete set-up including an anchorage device, body support and connecting component for convenient compliance and safety on the job. This “ABC’s” approach to fall protection simplifies the buying decision and makes choosing the correct system simple, fast and safe. Our easy to use kits and anchorage devices provide the perfect solution and are legendary for their performance, value, quality and safety.

Model No. 2199803 includes:

  • Complete roofer’s fall protection system in one handy container
  • Reusable and extremely durable roof anchor with fasteners (model AJ730A)
  • Lightweight FIRST harness with pass-thru buckle legs and 5-point adjustment (model 1191995)
  • Compact rope adjuster with built-in 2-foot (0.6-meter) PRO shock-absorbing lanyard (model 1340005)
  • Durable and lightweight 5/8-inch-diameter (1.6-centimeter) 50-foot (15.2-meter) blended lifeline with snap hook (model 1204001)
  • Durable bucket with handle

Anchor for Fall Protection and Accessory Attachment

Qualcraft Industries’ HitchClip

Qualcraft Industries’ HitchClip

Qualcraft Industries’ HitchClip functions as a permanently installed anchor point. Made from durable and lightweight powder coated aluminum, the HitchClip requires six screws or six nails for installation. Available in black, gray or brown, the product’s sleek design blends in with nearly any roof. Its patented “key-hole” connection point allows it to be used as a standard fall-protection anchor and with numerous attachment accessories, such as Qualcraft’s Bunk Jack, Roof Jack, Guardrails, Workbench and more.

2012 Fatal Work Injuries Are Second Lowest Reported Since 1992

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012 was 4,628, up from 4,383 preliminarily reported in August 2013. The final 2012 total was the second-lowest annual total recorded since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2012 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down slightly from the final rate of 3.5 reported for 2011.

The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 is the lowest rate published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006. The final 2012 numbers reflect updates to the 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after the release of preliminary results in August 2013. Revisions and additions to the 2012 CFOI counts result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results. A table summarizing the results of the update process appears on the next page.

Among the changes resulting from the updates:

  • The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job in 2012 rose to 715 fatalities after updates were included. Contract workers accounted for over 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012. For more information, see the
    table on contractor data.
  • Roadway incidents were higher by 109 cases (or 10 percent) from the preliminary count, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2012 to 1,153 cases. The final 2012 total represented a 5-percent increase over the final 2011 count.
  • The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic workers was higher by 40 fatalities after updates were added, bringing the total number of fatally injured Hispanic workers to 748. That total was about the same as the 2011 total (749), but the fatality rate for Hispanic workers declined to 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012, down from 4.0 in 2011.
  • Work-related suicides increased by 24 cases to a total of 249 after updates were added. Workplace homicides were higher by 12 cases after the updates, raising the workplace homicide total in 2012 to 475 cases.
  • In the private transportation and warehousing sector, fatal injuries increased by 9 percent from the preliminary count, led by a net increase of 44 cases in the truck transportation sector.
  • A net increase of 31 fatal work injuries in the private construction sector led to a revised count of 806 for that sector. The 2012 total was an increase of 9 percent over the 2011 total and represented the first increase in fatal work injuries in private construction since 2006.

Overall, 36 states revised their counts upward as a result of the update process. CFOI has compiled an annual count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. since 1992 by using diverse data sources to identify, verify and profile fatal work injuries. For more information, see Chapter 9 of the BLS Handbook of Methods.

Residential Fall-protection Anchor Is Permanent

Qualcraft Industries' HitchClip

Qualcraft Industries’ HitchClip

Qualcraft Industries, a division of Guardian Fall Protection, has released a versatile residential fall-protection anchor: the HitchClip. Made from durable and lightweight powder-coated aluminum, the HitchClip is quick and easy to install (with six screws or six nails), and functions as a permanent anchor point. Because it may be permanently installed, the HitchClip not only adds value to any home, but also helps reduce costs for contractors by allowing them to save money on temporary or one-use anchor options.

The HitchClip, which is now fully available to purchase, comes in black, gray or brown, and its sleek design allows it to easily blend in with nearly any roof. Its patented “key-hole” connection point allows it to be used as a standard fall-protection anchor and also in combination with numerous attachment accessories, such as Qualcraft’s Bunk Jack, Roof Jack, Guardrails, Workbench, Platform Stage, Solar Panel Rack Bracket, and many more.

OSHA Forms Safety Alliance with Chicago Roofing Contractors Association

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established an alliance with the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association that will focus on sharing information about OSHA emphasis programs and occupational safety and health laws and standards, including the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers.

“This alliance is an opportunity for OSHA and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association to work together to train employers and workers about the unique hazards of the roofing industry, including falls,” says Angie Loftus, area director for OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office. “Our focus is to continue to improve the safety and health of workers at Illinois construction sites.”

OSHA and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association will provide information and guidance to employers and workers. They will develop training and education programs for roofing contractors regarding hazards in construction and promote understanding of workers’ rights. Training programs on common hazards in the construction industry will be discussed quarterly. Additionally, the alliance will provide a forum for OSHA personnel to appear and speak at events sponsored by the association, including its annual trade show. OSHA will raise awareness of best practices, regulatory updates and national campaigns.

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, trade associations, unions, consulates, professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools, resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

OSHA’s Illinois area offices in Des Plaines, North Aurora and Calumet City are participating in this alliance. Employers and workers with questions about this or other OSHA alliances and partnerships can call the Chicago Regional Office at (847) 803-4800.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

I Experienced a Fatality on a Job Site

A fatality on a job site is something I never thought I would experience. I’ve worked in architecture/construction/real-estate development for more than 12 years and a rusty nail through a work boot was one of the worst events I had encountered. I’ve been lucky. However, a roofing worker on a job site where my team recently was working lost his life and it was an incident that could have been prevented.

Our firm was hired by a client to act as an owner’s representative observer for a reroofing project. Thankfully (from a business owner’s standpoint), we were only hired to observe, photograph and document progress for the building owner. Our company was not the general contractor or the roofing contractor; therefore, we had no capacity to be in a supervisory role or have any say in means, methods or logistics of the roofing project.

The building was a high-bay industrial property that was due for a new roof membrane and insulation. Because the roof was fairly large in size and the weather was less than optimal, the roofing project was being completed in sections. Work progressed for several weeks in fits and starts and was generally behind schedule but was nearing completion.

One morning, in the process of what would seem to be catching up on the schedule, one worker became lax in using fall protection. Although the sections of the roof that were being stripped were cordoned off with flags, the worker was in an area that had a previous repair to the steel deck. A replacement section of steel deck had been used to cover up an old penetration or previous roof-deck repair. As the worker picked up a piece of underlayment, he stepped onto the replacement piece of steel deck, which had not been welded into place and did not overlap the hole any significant amount. As the worker stepped onto the replacement piece of steel deck, it slipped. Because there was little overlap, the piece of steel deck twisted as it slid and fell through the hole. The worker fell almost 30 feet to a concrete floor.

I’m not exactly sure what the survival statistic is for falling from that distance onto a hard concrete surface, but I can imagine that it struggles to reach double digits. Others on the site scrambled off the roof and performed CPR but, unfortunately, it was not enough to save the worker.

A recent study, “Fatal Falls from Roofs among U.S. Construction Workers”, from the Center for Construction Research and Training offers some startling statistics about roofing falls. From 1992-2009 nearly one-third of all fatal construction accidents were falls from roofs. The study states 76 percent of all deaths in the roofing industry are fall-related, and there is a higher incident of falls among foreign-born workers. Language barriers may be an issue in some instances. The sad fact is a good number of these fatalities could have been prevented with appropriate safety gear, clear communication and by avoiding cutting corners.

The construction field is a dangerous area where the risks of serious injury and even death are prevalent on a daily basis. The problem becomes worse when workers become complacent in their jobs; they know the associated risks but still make decisions that put them in harm’s way. I’m pretty sure the worker on this particular job site didn’t wake up that morning thinking it may be his last day alive. It’s just not something you think will happen to you until it’s too late.

Safety on the worksite should be the No. 1 priority of any company. Supervisors who are lenient about safety rules need to be retrained and held accountable for their job-site safety record. Above all, if you see something, say something. If a member of my team noticed this worker was not wearing fall protection, I would like to think they would’ve said something. It’s easy to dismiss reporting a safety violation to those in charge. Too often we think, “It’s not my job site; it’s not my employee; it’s not my problem”. However, someone’s life is at stake, and that someone deserves to go home to his or her family just like we do.