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WorkCover skylight safety alert

WorkCover NSW has issued a formal safety alert after one worker died and two others received serious injuries when they fell through a skylight or plastic roof sheeting in March.

The regulator warns that, “Even plastic sheeting that is claimed to be trafficable can become brittle over time and is highly reliant on correct installation to be trafficable”.

Even the normal conditions of a roof – rain, dust and algae – can make skylights and plastic sheeting particularly hazardous, according to the WorkCover NSW alert.

“When on existing roofs, dirt and algal growth can make it harder to notice plastic sheeting, especially if it has the same profile as the surrounding sheeting.”

“Roof sheeting profiles, surface changes, dirt, moisture and obstructions on roofs make it more likely that a person will stumble and deviate from their intended travel path.”

Read more: Walking on Air? Carl Sachs presents a guide to crossing skylights and asbestos roofs.

WorkCover NSW’s alert tells workplaces to conduct inspections before any rooftop work and urges a conservative approach: “consider skylights and plastic roof sheeting as non-trafficable areas unless certified as trafficable.”

“Even then, ensure that the installation has been checked and proven to comply with trafficable installation instructions.”

It notes that “even a missing screw can make a sheet non-trafficable”.

The safety alert points to six types of control measures for the hazards presented by brittle surfaces such as plastic sheeting, asbestos sheet and skylights. Other than avoiding the area altogether, the simplest and safest of these are to install barriers, such as guard rails or covers, that are secured and labelled with warning signs.

For assistance with inspections and control measures, email Workplace Access & Safety at [email protected] or call 1300 552 984.