Don’t overlook skylights fall hazards

Natural light has a proven positive effect on people. This is the reason why many homes, schools and workplaces have skylights integrated into their roofs. But skylights pose a great risk that is often overlooked for those who are entering the roof.

OSHA views at skylights as holes in the floor as almost all skylights are not designed to bear any type of loads. So should a person lean or step on them, they will probably fall through the skylight. This is a very real danger with oftentimes deadly consequences. Unfortunately many people don’t see skylights as dangerous and thus do not take the appropriate safety measures.

Fall protection for skylights

In order to protect workers from the dangers of falling through a skylight you could install screens, or covers, over the casements, or install guardrails around the skylights. Another option is the use of travel restraint or a personal fall arrest system. Which method is best suitable for your worksite can be determined by a pre-work fall hazard or risk analysis.

Skylight covers or guardrails

The advantage of skylight covers and guardrail systems is that they do not require involvement of the person working at height. The systems are always present and protect anyone from falling through a skylight. Thus providing the highest possible level of protection.

Both systems can be installed on top of a roof structure, without the need to penetrate the roof. The benefit of a guardrail system over a skylight cover is that the guardrail doesn’t block light intake as much as a cover would.

However, there are situations in which skylight covers or guardrails do not offer a suitable solution to preventing falls. Skylight covers can also just simply do not comply with the building owners wish. In these cases a travel restraint or personal fall arrest system can provide the necessary protection.

Travel restraint or fall arrest

A travel restraint system will prevent any fall from happening as a user cannot reach the area where a fall could occur. A travel restraint system can exist of a horizontal lifeline, – rail or a system of single anchor points.  Users are anchored to one of these systems with a full body harness and lanyard. A user can need to adjust their lanyard or use a self-retracting lifeline to reach all parts of the roof.

fall hazards skylights

A personal fall arrest system is comparable to a travel restraint system when it comes to components. However, this system allows users to access areas where a fall can take place and ensures that a user’s fall is stopped should one occur.

We will always advice the use of a guardrail over a travel restraint system, as a guardrail provides a higher level of protection. For this same reason we prefer travel restraint systems over a personal fall arrest system as preventing a fall is always top priority. Whatever fall protection system you chose for preventing falls through skylights, you should always provide users with proper training.


Inform those who have to work at height on the location of the skylights on the roof. As there may be situations in which it may not be immediately evident where these dangerous constructions are hidden. For example, because of dirt that has accumulated on the skylight, or because they are covered in snow or leaves.

Workers have to know the risks presented by skylights. Which is why those who have to work at height need to receive training on risk identification, proper safety procedures and the correct use of fall protection systems.

Fall protection solutions for roofs with skylights

At XSPlatforms we offer several fall protection solutions that can be applied to roofs with skylights. To see our entire product range you can download our fall protection brochure.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Derek McDoogle
    December 19, 2019 4:32 pm

    I did not know that some guardrails can be installed on a roof without the need to penetrate the roof. My boss told me that he would like to add more space to the warehouse so that we can have a major inventory. I will suggest to him to install guardrails so that the employees that work at the warehouse won’t fall down.


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