Solar Panel Installation: Fall Protection & "Roofing Work"
In June, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that rooftop solar panel installation is not “roofing work” under OSHA regulations. This Decision and the Court’s discussion of it reaffirms what many safety professionals already knew – that more stringent employee fall protection standard applies to non-roofing work compared to the less stringent standard for “roofing work.”
In Bergelectric v. Secretary of Labor, a solar panel installation company was using both warning lines and a safety monitor to comply with fall protection requirements – with the added use of a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) only when workers needed to go outside the warning lines. OSHA cited Bergelectric under 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(1), which require employees working near the unprotected sides and edges more than 6 feet above the level below to be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or a PFAS.
In reaching their Decision the Court looked at OSHA’s definition of “roofing work”, and noted solar panel installation is not referenced in OSHA’s definition. Specifically, the Court determined “roofing work” is narrowly defined to cover actual construction of the physical roof structure. As Begelectric was not performing roof construction work, the less stringent “roofing work” fall protection standard (and use of warning lines and a safety monitor) was not applicable. As such the requirements of 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(1) applied; requiring either a PFAS, guardrail systems or safety net systems be used for fall protection.
With the Bergelectric v. Secretary of Labor
Decision contractors (HVAC, plumbers, communications, etc.) are reminded that while work may be conducted on a roof, it is not considered “roofing work” by OSHA and workers must be protected by either a PFAS, guardrail systems or safety net systems for fall hazards greater than 6 feet.
Amerisafe Group’s goal in the is to create a safe environment for all workers. Many hazards and risks arise while solar panels are being installed. Utilizing preventative measures, such as safety training, can further educate all employees in the solar industry of the dangers they may face every day. Learn about our Solar Farm Site Safety Services.