HVAC Technician Falls Through Skylight

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Type:  Report - Gov

Publisher:  Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, WA

Published As:  Public


Topics:  Occupational Safety and Health, Operations, Work Management/Planning

On June 15, 2012, a 44-year-old heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician died when he fell through a skylight. The victim had worked for his employer, an HVAC contractor, for the previous four years. On the day of the incident, the victim and two other company employees were performing routine maintenance on rooftop HVAC units. The commercial building roof where they were working was flat and had unguarded skylights. The workers were not using fall protection. After they had been working for about four hours changing belts on HVAC units, the victim needed to go to their work van to get a belt. A coworker gave him the vehicle keys. As the victim was walking away from the coworker, he turned back towards him and began speaking to him. He then tripped on the lip of an unguarded skylight and fell through it. He landed approximately 26 feet below on a concrete floor.

When employees are working in the vicinity of skylights which have been installed and are not capable of sustaining the weight of a two hundred pound person with a safety factor of four, one of the following fall protection measures shall be implemented:
  • A standard guardrail system.

  • Cover or screen.

  • A personal fall arrest system consisting of a body harness, lanyard, connectors, and anchor points.
A hazard assessment should be completed by employers before employees perform rooftop work, whether that work involves maintenance or construction activities.

Architects, designers, contractors, and building owners should consider guarding skylights with screens or guardrails to protect workers who must perform work on rooftops.

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