NIOSH Urges Immediate Action to Protect Firefighters from Falls

Published December 2, 2015

A new NIOSH safety advisory explains that translucent corrugated roof panels may contribute to increased fall risk for firefighters during roof operations. NIOSH’s Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program is currently investigating the recent death of a firefighter who stepped on one of these panels and fell approximately 17 feet to a concrete floor. The agency’s preliminary findings show that translucent corrugated panels are typically not designed to be walked upon and will not support the weight of a firefighter.

The panels, which are designed to transfer natural light and heat into a building’s interior, may be difficult for firefighters to recognize, especially at night. Translucent corrugated panels can be found in many buildings, including manufacturing facilities, warehouses, storage buildings, restaurants, and covered walkways.

NIOSH urges all fire departments to immediately take the following actions to protect firefighters while operating on roofs that contain these panels:

  • ensure that all firefighters, company officers, and chief officers are aware of and are trained to recognize translucent corrugated roof panels
  • establish policies and procedures to ensure that firefighters do not walk or stand on translucent corrugated roof panels
  • ensure firefighters immediately inform the incident commander and other firefighters when translucent corrugated roof panels are identified
  • ensure firefighters follow safe roof operating practices, including sounding the roof, having enough ladders for safe exit, and always wearing the proper PPE

View the safety advisory on NIOSH’s website.