The U Capstone Rooftop-Fall Protection Team.
(From left to right: Kyle Somer, Gary Hsu, Zachary Zwahlen, Clancy Van Dyke, Hunter Bernstein, and Aimee Morgan.
Not pictured are Michel Goulet, Jeremiah Wangsgard, and Ken d’Entremont.)

Prof. Ken d’Entremont of the Ergonomics & Safety Program is advisor to a team of U Capstone students who are seeking to improve the safety of rooftop workers.  This is a group of six undergraduate Mechanical-Engineering students at the University of Utah.  As part of the U Capstone Program, these students participate in a two-semester course sequence in which they apply the design, analysis, and testing skills that they learned in their earlier courses.  Their aim is to design and test a simple and practical system for those people working on residential structures.  Although laws already exist that require fall-protection devices or systems for many rooftop workers, cost or inconvenience may keep employers and workers from using fall protection.

The team and their advisor are each grateful to Mr. Michel Goulet and Mr. Jeremiah Wangsgard of Petzl America for their technical support of this project.  Indeed, it was their concern for the safety of workers performing their jobs at elevation that was the genesis of this U Capstone Project.  They have taken the time to meet with the team at their training facility in Salt Lake City at several key points in the design and development stages of the project.  The project is now entering the testing stage and headed for completion at the end of the Spring Semester.

Construction workers and others at high risk of fall injury include roofers, solar-panel installers, satellite-dish installers, and wind-turbine technicians.  Yahoo! Finance recently showed a graphic of the fastest-growing job in each state.  Out of 50 states, thirteen had fastest-growing jobs that have high fall risks.

Each year, falls from elevation account for almost 39% of the almost 1000 construction-related deaths each year.  Rooftop falls make up 31% of all fall fatalities with the remainder distributed among falls from ladders, scaffolding, or other hazards.  Those working for small construction firms (fewer than 10 employees) make up over 60% of fall-related fatalities.  Hispanic workers are at an even-higher risk of deaths due to construction fall injuries.  (These numbers do not include slips, trips, and falls onto the same elevation.)