Safe Roof Access

Soni Sheimar, General Manager, Easi-Dec, discusses how to ensure work on fragile roofs can be carried out safety in the August/September issue of Roofing Today

Falls from height continue to be linked with fragile roofs. Employers are being faced with court appearances and harsh fines due to unsafe working conditions and not following the correct procedures for employees to remain
safe.

Industrial roofing is prone to being fragile, with various weak spots and uneven surfaces making it an unsafe environment for workers undertaking rooftop tasks. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), falls from height remain one of the most common causes of fatality and major injury in the UK. The 2012/2013 national figures report that two million working days were lost due to slips, trips and falls, while 46 fatal injuries involved worked falling from height.

The key piece of legislation is the Work at Height Regulations 2005, amended 2007, which places a legal requirement for anyone who contracts others to access and maintain rooftop equipment on public buildings and housing developments to ensure proper safety precautions are in place. Breaching these regulations can result in a legal prosecution and a substantial fine or imprisonment.

A Bristol based roofing company recently pleaded guilty to failing to make an adequate assessment of the risks to its employees when working at height. An employee fell through a roof light of a warehouse in July 2013 after carrying out patch repairs on the flat roof. HSE’s investigation found that the risk assessment was not appropriate for the task and the system of work was unsafe. The company pled guilty to a breach of Regulation 4 of the Working at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £10,000.

It is essential that all work at height is properly planned and carried out by competent members of staff to avoid accidents. It is also the contractor’s responsibility to be trained to safely work at height, ensuring that they understand and work within the regulations.

Selecting the right equipment is key to reducing the risk of accidents and falls from height. It needs to be secure, easy to access and meet regulations. From the contractor’s point of view, it’s also helpful if the system selected is easy to install, available at short notice and offers good value for money.

Access to industrial roof tops requires solutions that are designed to overcome the challenges of working on fragile roofs and provide the user with a safe working position for skin maintenance, inspection, cleaning and re-sealing work. Many manufacturers, including Easi-Dec have developed a range of products to provide a safety system that is suitable for all requirements and simplify short duration roof work.

Any of these three types of access systems can be considered when accessing industrial roof tops – mesh walkways, rolling platforms and mobile walking frames.

Mesh walkways are a great option when access is needed to run from the eaves to ridge. It provides the benefit of spreading the weight across the support battens, allowing the workers to confidently move along the full length of the system. Opting for a solution that is made from high grade aluminium ensures the structure is robust, lightweight, and easily transportable.

A fully guarded rolling platform, which is mounted on twin racks, allows workers to move up and down the roof on a secure and level surface. Requiring no penetration, the structure is easy to assemble and take down, and is possible to transport quickly to other parts of the roof. The platform moves along a linking track which is fitted with safety mesh and battens to provide further support.

Lightweight mobile walking frames are designed to provide safe access for one or two people when working along valley gutters. The outriggers are filled with safety mesh and cushioned for comfort. This system can also be used to transport light payloads. Suitable for typical symmetrical valleys, the system could also be fully adjustable to suit uneven designs. Specifying these types of systems presents contractors with a quicker, more cost-effective and more practical approach to rooftop access, and will ensure that they and their employers comply fully with the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Roofing Today is the authoritative magazine for the roofing industry and features comprehensive and topical coverage written by industry specialists.