According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics for 2014, there were 874 deaths in construction due to falls. In previous reports, at least 80 of the workers that were injured in falls were due to skylights. Skylight accidents resulting in skylight accident deaths from falls totaled 34 workers one year. In addition, a great number of the skylight accidents that did not result in death resulted in severe injuries as a result of the skylight failure.
Many skylight accident lawsuits are the result of product defects, lack of warning or lack of barricades or exterior bars or screen grating to safeguard those people working on roofs in and around skylights. When a skylight death occurs, the accident can often be blamed on negligence. Sometimes the skylight accident is the result of the construction company failing to install the skylight correctly. In those cases, the building owner, the construction company and the skylight installer may also be held responsible in cases where there is a failure to maintain the premises and replace aging or defective skylights.
Skylight accidents also occur when the skylight cannot support the regulated or stated weight capacity. According to OSHA, skylight screens must be able to support loads of at least 200 pounds applied at any one area on the screen. They should also be constructed so that under ordinary impacts and loads, that will not deflect down to the glass and break. If a fixed railing is used instead of a screen, OSHA requires that the rails and post shall have a vertical height of 42 inches from the surface to top rail. These safeguards effectively reduce and in most cases eliminate skylight accidents and skylight deaths when followed by construction companies.
In addition, curbs, railings, and screens must be utilized to protect workers from falling through skylights or an opening in the roof according to OSHA. These skylight safety guards must be put in place before roofing work is to begin and should be in place until construction is completed. Employers are also to have adequate fall protection safeguards in place to prevent skylight accidents and skylight deaths. These can include fixed covers, catch platforms, or safety nets.
Unfortunately in most skylight accidents, the heights of the falls are extreme and the severe injuries resulting are life changing or life ending. One skylight accident lawsuit involved a 43 year old man who died after falling through a glass skylight lens that was covered by snow. There were no guard systems in place and the worker did not see the snow covered skylight before it broke under his own weight. The required guards would have prevented this skylight accident death.
Another skylight accident lawsuit involved a worker who died after sustaining severe injuries when he fell through skylight and down to a concrete floor 12 feet below. The roofer had been hired to help pull up old roofing materials when he fell backwards onto the skylight lens that broke under his weight. The skylight did not have any of the protective screens, covers or guards and also contained no warning labels, barriers or raised barricades.
As a result of these cases, employers should take steps to reduce skylight accidents and skylight deaths. Many of these employers do not understand the risks and severity of the hazards that skylights can pose to their workers. Skylight accidents and skylight deaths can be prevented by developing fall prevention programs, requiring covers and screens or guards and railings, and using harnesses, nets and other fall prevention equipment.
Skylight manufacturer defects also can be prevented by manufacturers improving the strength of the glass and materials used to resist force loads of 500 or more pounds. And build skylights with an lightweight safety screen that would still allow 95% of the light through and be able to catch a person if they fell. Skylight accidents with resulting death and injury lawsuits would be greatly reduced if manufacturers incorporated and designed screens and guards that were integrated into the skylights themselves instead of being retrofitted. Conspicuous warning labels should also be affixed to the skylights by manufacturers, but labels can fade in the sunlight or be covered over with snow or debris. The technology to make these simple changes is readily available, yet many skylights remain extremely unsafe and as a result, workers are still being killed each year by skylight accidents.
If you or your loved ones have suffered a severe and debilitating injury caused by an accident involving a skylight, the Willis Law Firm is here to help you get the compensation you may be entitled to.