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Mitigating the Dangers of Roof Work

Mitigating the Dangers of Roof Work

Contractors and real estate owners are responsible for their workers’ safety and health. There is nothing worse than an accident during a working at height project. The concept of working at height screams the need for meticulous safety measures as a slight error or carelessness while working at height could cause more damage to life and limb than the same error committed while working on ground level.

This article explains the most common dangers of roof work and precautions that can be taken to mitigate these risks. As the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has stated:

“Working on a roof can be dangerous. Falls account for more deaths and serious injuries in construction than anything else and roofers account for 24% the biggest category of worker by far of those people who are killed in all falls from height.”

Roof work certainly comes with some obvious dangers but also some hidden ones like falls through skylights and fragile roofs tops. You cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to roof safety, so here is a table with a breakdown of the dangers you might have to prepare for and mitigate.

Where most falls occur during roof work?

  1. Roof Edges – Most workers are aware of this danger
  2. Roof Holes & Gaps – Not always spotted by workers
  3. Fragile Roof Material – Hidden
  4. Skylights – Can be hidden

HSE’s risk mitigation for working at height applicable to roof work

  1. Avoid work at height where possible – This may not be possible to roof work
  2. Prevent falls from height – Use fall restraint systems
  3. Minimise the consequences of falls from height – Use fall arrest systems

As indicated on the list above there are two systems to use for roof safety. Here is a short summary of the differences between fall restraint systems and arrest systems. For a more comprehensive look at the difference between the two, have a look here.

According to HSE’s The Work at Height Regulation 2005 contractors and building owners need to follow certain guidelines when it comes to mitigating the dangers of working at height. Let us look at this hierarchy and see how it applies to roof work.

safe roof working

Unsafe roof working?

Hierarchy of working at height

Fall Restraint:

This is a technique where the emphasis is on preventing the worker from falling from height to begin with. It helps the worker get on with his work without having to worry about reaching a point where he or she could fall.

Advantages:

This is the preferred technique as it completely prevents falls before they happen.

Disadvantages:

Workers may have a tendency to disregard safety measures and remove themselves from a fall restraint system to get to hard-to-reach places on the roof.

Fall Arrest:

This is a technique that protects the worker by arresting their fall so they do not fall to the ground. Instead, they are captured before they do so. A safety net is a good example of fall arrest equipment.

Advantages:

This system allows unrestricted movement.

Disadvantages:

There is a danger of grave injury in the event a worker does fall. Arresting a fall does not entirely eliminate serious injury risk.

Products to mitigate the risks

We can now take a look at some of the products you can use to mitigate the risks of falling during roof work.

We explain these in more detail here.

Despite the advantages and disadvantages of both, keep in mind that fall restraint takes precedence as it is higher in HSE’s hierarchy of work at height risk mitigation.

Roof Guardrail Systems:

Roof Guardrail systems can either be free-standing or fixed and are designed to fit different types of roofs. Combining free-standing and fixed roof guardrail systems provides the greatest flexibility for most roof structures.

Roof Lifeline Cable Systems:

Roof line cable systems enable workers to access areas of the roof with great flexibility. This system can take advantage of a range of anchors to suit different structures and building fabrics.

Roof-Access Stairs and Step Units:

These are specifically designed to get to areas where the angle of access ranges from thirty to fifty degrees in pitch. They can be fixed or freestanding and used to access plant areas, parapet walls, conduits etc.

Fragile Roof Walkways:

Fragile roof walkways are made for working on a fragile roof. You may deploy temporary or permanent walkways in combination with guardrails — fixed or free-standing depending on the situation at hand.

Skylight Covers:

Skylight covers protect fragile skylights, when workers have no choice but to access them. The workers are able to safely walk on them and use the covers in combination with roof walkways.

NOTE:

Safety systems and equipment are nothing without workers with the appropriate training, knowledge and skills. They should be able to recognise risks and also know how safety systems work. At the very least, they need to be under the supervision of someone who is qualified to do so.

If you are looking for a comprehensive roof-safety solution, you need to consider the many fall hazards and consult the experts. High Access Solutions can ensure all areas are covered in a cost-efficient manner.

Contact us today on 0114 242 4811.

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