129 ColumbiaI read in the news this morning that a 2-year-old boy died when he fell from the roof of a 4-story apartment building in Dorchester, Massachusetts – about 25 miles from my home.  Many of the news reports focus on the lack of supervision that allowed the toddler to leave the day care on the first floor, climb 4 flights of stairs to the roof, push the door to the roof open, and eventually fall.  The lack of supervision is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed – even if he hadn’t made it to the roof he could have encountered other dangers after leaving the day care.

But what about the roof door?  Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson said that the boy was able to “push through a door and get onto the roof.”  But the Boston Inspectional Services Department issued a violation report which stated that the door must be “manually slammed shut to engage panic hardware.”  It’s unclear how this door actually operates.

If the door swings out onto the roof and is equipped with panic hardware, it would allow unauthorized people onto the roof.  If it swings into the stairs, it would be somewhat unusual to have panic hardware on the roof side, since the roof is not occupiable.  In my opinion, roof doors should be locked to prevent access to the roof, and roof doors should be inspected to make sure they are closing and latching properly.  If this roof was only accessed by repairmen or other authorized people, it would be surprising if they did not close and latch the door behind them when they last left the roof.  This is not the first tragedy of this type, and future incidents can easily be avoided with proper security.

Here is a past Decoded article about roof access and egress.

How do you handle roof doors?

Aerial Photo:  Bing Maps

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