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    January 2011

    Rooftops and Other Dangerous Places

    Although school and college campuses are generally safe places, certain areas are inherently dangerous. Falls from rooftops, balconies, and upper-floor windows accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total dollars paid by UE and its members and 14 percent of deaths at campus residence halls, according to a recent UE claims study. Fire escapes and rooms storing high-voltage electrical equipment may seem off the beaten track, but they have also been the scene of tragic accidents.

    A UE member recently asked us what precautions it should take to prevent unauthorized access to dangerous locations on campus.

     A school or university may be held liable for someone’s injury in a restricted area on campus even if the person was not authorized to be there. The legal standard says liability could occur if an institution allowed “unreasonably dangerous” conditions that could cause injury to someone who is in the restricted area. To reduce the risk of serious injuries and death, UE recommends the following:

    Identify and Inspect

    Identify all campus locations that are designated for restricted access. Regularly inspect these locations and document these inspections. Ensure that any locks or access pads are intact and working properly. Consider using alarms as a way to alert personnel of unauthorized access.

    Use Signage

    Post signs at restricted access areas with warnings such as “Keep Out” or “Authorized Access Only.”


    Train building supervisors, maintenance staff, resident assistants, and others on the importance of preventing unauthorized access to restricted areas.


    Instruct campus staff and students how to report broken locks and other systems designed to keep unauthorized people out of dangerous locations, and encourage them to do so.

    Notify Residents

    At the beginning of each school term, provide notice to all residents of restricted areas in campus housing and residence halls. Prohibit dangerous activities such as climbing onto ledges, accessing the roof, and climbing onto fire escapes— except in emergencies.

    Safety Regulations

    Consult building codes to ensure that all safety regulations are being followed.


    Develop and strictly enforce all policies regarding access to restricted areas. For example, see the following policies:

    Determine where injuries and accidents are occurring on campus and focus your prevention efforts on these areas.

    For more information, please refer to UE’s Risk Research Bulletin “Residence Hall Safety.”


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