There are so many reasons why someone may need to access the roof. At a minimum, workers need to access roofs to replace the existing roof or just to repair roof shingles. Other common reasons why workers would need access to a roof is when installing solar and then maintaining it throughout the years.
That’s plenty of reasons why you may need roof access, from installation to repair to even leisure. If the roof is not accessible to the public, however, then roofs must be locked and precautions taken to protect workers when maintenance is required.
Can Roof Access Doors Be Locked?
There are multiple doors and hatches that can lead to flat roofs in the UK, and the type of exit you’re dealing with will depend entirely on whether they should be locked, when, and how. If your roof leads to an external emergency stairwell along the outside of the building, for example, and the roof deck or terrace is a registered fire escape route, then the door will need to remain unlocked. With an unlocked door like this, all edges, skylights, and other hazards must be cordoned off for safety.
Very few roofs act as fire escape routes, however, which is why they should stay locked as standard. This applies to both full doors and roof maintenance hatches. When it comes to full-sized rooftop doors, note that these should be accessible from the roof side. This prevents people from getting stuck on the roof and, in the event of a fire, gives firefighters another ingress. Naturally, these unlocked roof doors are only an option for taller buildings.
Why You Should Lock Roof Access Doors and Hatches
Locking roof access doors and hatches, unless it’s one of the mandated fire exit routes in the building or has been converted into a roof garden, is simply smart. Usually, these exits are for maintenance purposes only, at which point unauthorized access leads to an increased risk of injury or death due to falling.
The default operation of roof access hatches is to only open from the inside using a handle and cylinder lock. However, once someone is on the roof, they can close the roof hatch cover securely. After the work on the roof is finished, re-entry can be easily obtained by opening the roof access hatch.
For roof access hatches without windows, two special options are available for opening the hatch from the outside. These include an electrically operated closure and a closure that must be specifically requested.
Further Protection Features for Roofs
Limiting roof access is just the start when it comes to health and safety. Fall hazards are a common injury when it comes to roof work. Despite common belief, however, the greatest risk isn’t falling off the edge. In fact, in the roof industry, the most common cause for roof maintenance-related injuries is actually roofs collapsing.
Many roofs, particularly on older buildings or commercial/farming buildings, are far more fragile than many realise. To offer safe access, workers need to use tools like rolling walkways (which are easy to install), while managers must design a planning strategy to address all potential roof hazards. With this two-pronged approach between managers and workers, site managers can minimise the risk of falls, injuries, and even death.