How to Protect Your HVAC Units with Relevant Fall Protection
Most HVAC units are normally installed on rooftops. And you won’t miss finding one installed near the edge of the roof. While this may make sense to the contractors, these systems pose a serious safety risk to the maintenance team or any worker who needs to access the rooftop.
Before sending your workers and contractors out on the roof, you’ll need to install the relevant fall protection both for HVAC protection and to create a safe working environment. Fall protection is required where there’s a level change of 6’ or more. Fall protection is also necessary where workers need to work or walk close to a fall hazard, usually within 15’.
To determine the right fall protection required, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. Below are some of the vital factors to review:
The Distance of the Next Level from the Roof’s Edge
Determining your fall clearance – distance from the surface of the roof to a lower level surface – is crucial to ensure you select the right fall protection system. This lower level could be another rooftop, the ground, a tree, or any obstacle that you could hit in the event of a fall.
Should your fall clearance be shorter than the fall arrest system, the safety system will not catch you in time before hitting the lower level ground. To reduce the impact of the fall, fall arrest systems are designed to stretch, which requires further fall distance. Therefore, you need to calculate your fall distance properly to include the stretching factor.
Your Mode of Access to the Roof
How you access the roof is a very important safety consideration. This alone could be far more dangerous than the task you’re about to do on the HVAC unit. There’s a high chance you’ll be exposed to a fall hazard when ascending or descending the ladder, stairs, or the hatch that connects to the roof. When you step off a ladder, for instance, you’ll be too close to the roof edge hence the need to have some form of fall protection in place.
How You Intend to Reach the HVAC from Your Access Point
Once you’ve protected your access point to the roof, your next concern should be how you get to the work area. You’ll be lucky if the work area is on a straight line where you can avoid all fall hazards by a safe distance (more than 15’). If the fall hazard is within close range, you’ll need to install fall protection in the area. You can use a post and chain barrier to indicate safe paths to follow while walking or working on the roof.
The Distance of the HVAC Unit from the Roof’s Edge
It can be quite confusing when determining how much of the roof edge around the work area needs protection. Essentially, you may install fall protection on the edge if it is within 15’ from the HVAC unit.
How often you’ll need to access the unit and for how long are other vital factors that you should consider when determining the right protection. Common fall protection options to consider include safety nets, guardrails, positioning systems, and travel restraints.