Recently, a solar worker in Hawaii fell off a roof to his death. Construction work is one of the most dangerous activities, and installing rooftop solar presents additional fall and electric shock hazards. It is up to owners and managers of solar companies to insist that their workers follow appropriate solar safety procedures — even though these procedures may be inconvenient, time consuming and expensive.
Proper safety procedures can prevent tragedies like this. If you do rooftop installation work, we have three specific suggestions. First, install two or more permanent roof anchors on every job. These anchors are inexpensive (about $15 each), leak-proof, and easy to install. With these anchors installed there is no excuse for your workers not to use ropes and harnesses. Second, follow all of the applicable OSHA procedures for solar contracting, including ladder safety, protective gear, electrical safety, and emergency procedures. Third, consider getting a free OSHA safety inspection audit. Although inconvenient, these audits will help identify gaps in your company’s safety procedures.
Solar safety does not end when a system is installed. Homeowners must also be aware of the proper way to clean their panels and check for debris or problems with wiring. Although we’re not aware of a serious fire from a properly installed rooftop system, there have been incidences of squirrel or bird damage to wiring, and occasional arc fault problems. By design, rooftop PV systems have many built-in safety features to prevent injury or property damage — and local jurisdiction inspections are a good final step to help ensure the system is installed safely. For more on homeowner and installer solar safety, please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show.