Solar panel installers protected by federal fall protection rule

Staff reportsJune 6, 2019958


Appeals court rejects an electric company assertion that solar panel installers do similar work as roofers and that they need to follow general construction fall-prevention regulations during the installation of solar panels.

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Workers installing roof-top solar panels need to follow general construction fall-prevention regulations, not less restrictive fall protection requirements for roofing work, a federal appeals court decided June 6.

In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco upheld an OSHA safety citation against Bergelectric Corp.

Bergelectric Corp., , headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., was asking a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling it failed to protect workers from falls while they were installing solar panels at an air station in San Diego, a case that centers on what is considered “roofing work.”

While installing the panels on a hangar’s roof at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the electrical contractor used warning lines and safety monitors. 

However, the agency ruled that the company violated principal fall protection standard.

Concerns about how well solar workers are trained to avoid potentially lethal hazards, from falls to electrocution, have come up in recent years as the number of workers rises.

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