Volume 43, Issue 8 - August 2008

Codes & Regulations

AAMA Task Group Seeks Data on Skylight-Related Accidents

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) Skylight Council’s Skylight Fall Protection Task Group has been researching instances of skylight-related accidents. The group intends to present information to an ASTM task group working on a “Specification of Human Impact Criteria, with Procedure for Testing and Rating Plastic-Glazed Unit Skylights and Related Products used on Commercial Walkable Roofs for Fall-Through Resistance.” ASTM currently is in the process of developing a standard for skylight safety (see May 2008 USGlass, page 44).

“The intent of this document is to prevent a human from falling onto a surface below,” says John Westerfield of CrystaLite, who chairs the AAMA group. At this point there is very little data available on how many people have fallen through skylights, how far they’ve fallen, who was injured or what type of product was involved, and that is data the group is seeking in order to help ASTM best draft its standard.

“It’s very frustrating to have these instances brought up and not have good Codes&data,” commented one AAMA task group member during a June conference call.

In July, the group prepared a potential skylight fall survey to issue to manufacturers in order to gather instances of skylight-related injuries, or the lack thereof. During a conference call, task group members shared accounts of those incidents with which they were familiar—some manufacturers had gone 30 years without a single accident while others had experienced a small handful of incidents in as much time.

Among other recent tasks, the task group has updated its scope to exclude single-family houses from its language. “ … It would be the responsibility of the homeowner to warn anyone who’s going to be on the roof,” Westerfield said to those members on the June conference call who questioned the exclusion.

Jack Riley of Arkema, however, offered another perspective—on the scope as a whole.

“Shouldn’t there be some type of disclaimer in here, like ‘no skylight will offer protection for people in all possibilities?’” he asked. “There’s no way you can make a skylight 100-percent fall-proof, because you never know what kind of conditions are going to come up.”

However, Westerfield advised he felt the building owner and/or contractor would still maintain responsibility for safety.

“I don’t think this is replacing the responsibility of the building owner or contractor for providing fall protection,” he said.

One task group member noted that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) document 2004- 156, “Preventing Falls of Workers through Skylights and Roof and Floor Openings,” addresses the responsibility matter.

Another member suggested that perhaps laminated glass manufacturers should also be involved in this part of the process—particularly with relation to weathering and how it might affect a skylight’s strength.

Westerfield mentioned the fact that another option is utilizing screens or security grilles, but that these may rust easily in a marine climate, causing them to lose strength quickly.

“There are a lot of other things that need to be thrown into this weathering area,” said another member.

Westerfield presented the revised, still-inprogress scope to the ASTM group in June.

“There is much to be discussed and debated,” Westerfield says. “However, moving forward with new drafted documents is a step in the right direction toward developing a standard/test method based on a consensus of all those involved.”


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