Spot the high rise construction hazards on this rooftop painting site #HazardSpotting

| September 12, 2013

#HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations. Our audience submits pictures, and we write an article with insight from featured safety professionals. In our eleventh installment, we’re examining a painting jobsite on the roof of a high rise.

high rise construction hazards

Click to enlarge.

It’s unique to get such a clear view of a construction site on a high rise’s roof. The risks are amplified, but that’s offset by the fact that it’s difficult for people to see. So how do these workers fare given the danger and their supposed anonymity? We asked safety manager Brent McDonald what construction hazards he could spot in these photos. Take a closer look:

close-up-no-PPE-hazardconstruction worker spray painting on roof

Missing personal protective equipment (PPE)

It’s great to see the safety harnesses on these workers, but otherwise, there is a glaring lack of PPE. At the far side of the site, you can see the tip of a hardhat (see the photo below), so at least one worker is protecting his head. That fact just emphasizes the lack of personal protective equipment (mandated by section 1926.451(h)(1), and listed in OSHA’s PPE checklist) on the rest of the crew. Both hard hats and safety glasses are noticeably absent. And although we couldn’t find an OSHA regulation requiring respiratory protection, we’ll put it to you, our readers: should these painters be protecting their lungs?

Slip, trip, and fall construction hazards (STF)

OSHA states that “nothing that could cause a slip, trip or fall (i.e. tools, scrap material, chemicals, snow, ice, etc.) is allowed to accumulate on the platform.” [1926.451(f)(8) and 1926.451(f)(13)]

As Brent pointed out, you can see duct tape on the ends of one of the worker’s shoes. While that will keep his shoes from turning turquoise, the duct tape could also cause him to slip and fall. And without a hardhat, that fall could be extremely damaging. Trip hazards are present too; what appear to be guide wires coming from the far wall are creating obstacles on the walking platform.

roof view high rise construction hazards

Click to enlarge.

Toeboard and guardrail hazards

McDonald noted that the toeboards on this site, also mandated by OSHA in section 1926.451(h)(1), look suspect. For one, the toeboard on the left side is not butting up to the planks. It appears to be angling down, away from them. The toeboards on the right and the front do not appear to go the required four inches above the planks.

The guardrail system these rooftop painters have in place isn’t completely safe, either. McDonald noticed that the guardrail is missing between the vertical supports on the right-hand side of the scaffold.

McDonald took a close look at the rail boards and noted that they’re laying unsecured on the horizontal frame members between the vertical members of the scaffolding. This means that they could be easily pushed toward and away from the walkboards.  If they are pushed out to the vertical members farthest from the walkway, it appears there could be as much as 10″ to 12″ of horizontally open space between the walkboards and the handrails.

Did we miss anything? Comment below.

If you want to see more photos of this high rise construction site, visit our #HazardSpotting Tumblr gallery. This site and the above hazards were reported to OSHA. We will update this post with any news about the complaint’s resolution.

Meet Brent McDonald

Big thanks to Brent McDonald for his commentary on this edition of #HazardSpotting. Brent McDonald is the Safety Manager for Environmental Design & Construction, a small general contracting company in Washington, DC. He has previously worked for Fluor Corporation, Hunt Construction, Zachry Construction and Granite Construction. McDonald specializes in heavy civil and highway construction.

More about #HazardSpotting

Think you’ve seen an unsafe work condition? Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or food safety, we’ll investigate the hazard. Snap a picture and share your story with us by sending an email to the editor at Krissa (at) smartsign (dot) com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert.

If you need instructions regarding how to report a hazard you have seen to the proper authorities, read this post.

Category: #HazardSpotting

About the Author ()

Charity is a content manager for SmartSign. She spends her days curating SmartSign’s blogs, reading contemporary literature, and querying Google about basic life skills. Charity studied English and philosophy at the University of Denver and the University of Oxford, and received a master's in creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Before learning the arts of signage and digital content, she taught college rhetoric, composition, and creative writing. Charity was raised in Ghana and Colorado, and currently resides in Brooklyn where she has developed an affinity for folky hipster music and revenge cinema. Charity is a staunch believer in the Oxford comma.

Comments (4)

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  1. Frank Fox says:

    the safety harnesses are improperly worn. there should be a fastened piece across the chest, it seems to be missing. in a fall they will come completely out. also to then I would most likely find the fall protection past expiration date. the covers over the holes in roof do not look substantial if some one stepped on one. they should be wearing respirators, gloves. they do make disposable tyvek coveralls. i agree housekeeping is enough of a problem to cause injury. also eye protection is missing. i don’t see an eye wash station either.

    • Mike Miles says:

      Thanks for noting the improper use of the safety harnesses, Frank – as well as the disposable coveralls suggestion and missing eye wash station. Just as we think we’ve caught all the hazards, another set of expert eyes catches some more. We appreciate your input!

  2. Nickole says:

    Not only improper use of fall protection harness but the lack of using the connection lanyard…. Kind of a crucial step