Skylights are an attractive feature in many homes. However, very few realise the hidden dangers of skylights that are not maintained and left unprotected, waiting for accidents to happen.

In a recent incident, a worker in the UK fell through a Perspex skylight, sustaining several injuries including a broken shoulder, head wounds, a partially collapsed lung and three broken ribs. After three days in the hospital, the worker had to take time off from work for 18 months; he continues to be affected by the impact of the fall.

The company was fined 30,000 pounds (over $52,000 AUD) and the owner jailed for six months for failing to ensure the safety of work at height.

The accident happened because the skylight had become completely hidden over time due to a build-up of dirt. The worker had unknowingly stepped on the skylight without realising the danger.

The company was held responsible because no inspection was carried out on the roof surface prior to the commencement of work. Besides, the supervisor had no proper safety training, which exacerbated the problem.

This isn’t an isolated incident; unfortunately, many workers throughout the height safety industry are carrying out work around unsatisfactorily protected skylights. There have been many injuries and even fatalities attributed to falls through skylights over the years.

Skylights are not designed to support the weight of a person and they should always have guardrail protection, skylight protectors or safety wire mesh installed around the unit. However, simply having safety wire mesh may not be sufficient because mesh can degrade over time and will need to be examined for its integrity, as does the structure to which it is attached. It is also vital to check the installation and compliance to Australian Standard AS/NZS 4389. For more information on safety mesh requirements, read The Myths of Safety Wire Mesh.

Some precautionary check measures when conducting work at height:

1. Conduct a site inspection before commencing work

A thorough inspection of the roof area before beginning work can often highlight any problems that may require attention. If there are any areas of concern, alert the site management immediately.

2. Complete a Safe Work Method Statement

Identify any hazards or risks associated with the work and ensure that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) has been completed detailing these risks and the safety measures that need to be implemented to reduce or eliminate the danger.

3. Worker training

Confirm that the workers are competent and trained in the work to be done. Make sure you check any relevant licences and paperwork before the work is undertaken. Ensure that all workers clearly understand the tasks they are being asked to perform and are aware of any risks and the safety measures in place.

4. Planning

Set out a clear plan for the work to be carried out – this will ensure that all processes and safety checks are performed as and when required.

5. Monitor 

When you have work being conducted at height, do not just ‘leave them to it’. Carry out regular progress checks to ensure that the work is being executed safely and in compliance with the site requirements, SWMS and any other specific regulations.

Sayfa Group stocks a full range of skylight protectors and guardrails that can give your workers the fall protection they deserve when working at height.