Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Whether one works at heights every day or just once in a while, the safety focus during those times should have the highest priority as it only takes one mistake to turn a routine task into a serious injury or fatality. One must be prepared to protect themselves and the other employees each and every time they could be exposed to a fall hazard.

A Common Occurrence

Height Safety System Supply & Install - Sydney

An example of a solar panel installation incident happened not too long ago, a 19-year-old apprentice electrician was killed installing solar panels () after falling through a roof. The apprentice stepped on a plastic roof sheet and despite using a fall arrest device the rope still had too much slack between the worker and the anchorage point, allowing the worker to fall 7 meters to the concrete slab below.

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Construction site accident injuries each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics*​

How to Prevent These Incidents

If you work with solar panel installations, keep your people safe. Installing solar panels exposes workers to serious risks that can result in death or serious injury. Falls from heights are the leading cause of deaths in the construction industry. Installers must reduce and manage the risk of falls to ensure the safety of workers and themselves. 

Taking time to plan your work before accessing the roof will help keep you safe. A formal risk assessment with agreed controls must be completed prior to commencing any work. The steps to the risk assessment are:

  1. Check the current condition of the roof and the types of roofing material.
  2. Ensure the roof is dry and clean before commencing work.
  3. Locate any skylights, plastic roof sheeting, asbestos cement sheeting or other brittle roof material, 
  4. Plan your work to avoid walking or storing material near them.

Use this information to determine the best fall protection system to use. To protect workers from falls, prevention is the safest option. At SECURE HEIGHT SYSTEMS, we ensure that we follow occupational health and safety regulations set by the Australian government to minimize any accidents that might occur during solar panel installation or any other job.

Fall prevention devices

Examples of fall prevention devices include permanent edge protection and scaffolding . These will provide protection at the roof edge but may not prevent falls through brittle roof materials. Where falls can’t be prevented, harness-based systems of work such as work positioning, restraint technique or fall arrest should always be used. Work positioning is where the worker is suspended or supported from a rope that is under tension at all times, so there is no slack in the system. 

Roof Anchor Point - Secure Height Systems - Sydney NSW

Restraint technique is a type of fall arrest where the worker continuously adjusts the lanyard length to prevent them reaching a position where they could fall. It can provide safe access to a large area, but must be carefully used to avoid excessive slack. A lanyard that stops you reaching the roof edge may not stop you reaching a brittle roof surface. Other types of fall arrest may include non-adjustable systems, lifelines, catch platforms and safety nets. 

Before installing a solar panel

Before commencing with solar panel installation, the worker must follow these bullet points for height safety and to minimize the risks of falling:

  • Before starting, make sure the roof is dry and clean. 
  • Check all equipment is fit for purpose and in good condition. 
  • Keep people not involved in the work area away using barricades or similar controls. 
  • Provide safe access to the roof. Typical examples are scaffolding, elevated work platforms and portable ladders. 
  • When using ladders, they should be secured at the top and bottom, and extend at least 1 metre above the roof edge. 
  • Always maintain 3 points of contact.
  •  Remember, safe access includes having a safe way to connect to any harnessed-based systems. 
  • Lift materials from the ground to the roof without putting workers at risk of falls or falling objects. Do not lift or carry materials while climbing ladders.
  • All items on the roof must be secured to stop them from falling. 
  • Store materials where their weight can be adequately supported and ensure they will not blow away. 
 

 

And before starting any work, make sure all workers are trained, educated in height safety, and fit for work. This includes training them to use the specific fall protection systems used on each job. Ensure all workers understand emergency procedures on site in case an incident does occur. Everyone has a right and obligation to stop work if they feel it is unsafe. Provide adequate supervision to ensure fall protection systems are being used properly. You have the power to save others. Speak up if someone is not using fall protection, it might just save their life!  

In Conclusion

While height safety equipment is essential and a must when attempting to install a solar panel, the most important at the end of the day is following the proper protocol. Period, If a company wants their employees to work safely at heights, they must be properly trained. Not only is training required by law, but there is just too much room for mistakes and accidents when it comes to a person trying to protect themselves at height without proper knowledge.

 

 

References

Years Of Height Safety Excellence in Sydney With Quality At It’s Best!

Our Services include:

Height safety compliance starts with the design. Send through your architectural plans and we will advise you with the site specific on-budget solution.

An accredited team of height safety installers with the experience to ensure we over-deliver. Our team of installers is flexible and can be on-site on short notice.

Certification of your height safety system and testing of your anchor points to ensure compliance with relevant Australian standards.

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