Roof Hatches play an integral part in allowing workers safe access to roof areas for renovations and repair, including HVAC equipment maintenance. They provide convenience for the maintenance crew and building personnel. Also known as roof scuttles, they are common in nonresidential buildings, such as those found in commercial or industrial zones.
Despite their convenient use, an unattended roof hatch poses a hazard if left in an open position. This danger poses an immediate concern for building owners and managers. It should be dealt with accordingly to avoid a fine from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and potential lawsuit if there are incidents of injury or death.
Why Is a Roof Hatch Important?
As mentioned before, roof hatches provide convenience for personnel and their tools and equipment to access the roof areas safely. It is an essential feature to accommodate the installation or removal of equipment or machinery into the building. The location of these hatches is typically over a ladder or staircase that provides access to the roof.
The Hazard and Design of an Open Roof Hatch
The most common type of roof hatch present in most buildings is the single-leaf model, which can only cover and accommodate a single person. Double-leaf or two-cover roof hatches, on the other hand, are generally larger to accommodate big machinery and equipment and play an integral part in the removal or installation of said machinery and equipment.
Due to its design, sometimes people forget to close the hatch, which poses a risk for anyone who is not paying attention. Personnel working atop a roof can trip over the hatch’s curb, lose their footing, or even step back into the areaway without looking, thereby sustaining crippling or even fatal injuries. All open roof hatches, no matter the size or number of covers, present a fall hazard.
The Safety Standards
The standard way of protecting people from any potential harm is to install a guard rail around the hatch with a standard toe-board on all exposed sides (except at the entrance to an opening), as stated in an OSHA standard 26 CFR 1910.23. You can read the entire standard available online at www.osha.gov.
The least expensive way to deter any person from harm is to insist that workers close the hatch right away after stepping onto the roof and open it only to exit the rooftop area. There is, however, a possibility that the person may lock themselves out. Many building owners and managers fear that they cannot enforce all building personnel to comply with this policy.
A self-closing gate railing system is the best and most straightforward way to ensure continuous OSHA compliance. When entering or leaving a hatch, the gate swings shut automatically to create a shield around the opening. This feature takes the safety decision entirely out of the worker’s hands.
There is no question that Roof Hatches are a requirement for ease of access and a degree of safety for those who work in nonresidential buildings. Despite its convenient use, it does pose a certain level of danger that might hold the building management and owner liable for any injury or death. It is best to follow the rules and regulations set by the government and OSHA to avoid any hazards brought by neglect or oversight.