CONSIDER INSTALLING THESE BARRIERS TO ENSURE ROOF SAFETY
When you talk about keeping everyone safe on your roof, there are preparation steps you need to take and physical barriers you can install. Both are preemptive, but they are different types of preemptive. Knowing your roof layout as a facility manager only protects you and people who you disseminate that information to. Installing physical safety barriers keeps everyone on your roof safe. Let’s take a look at some of the physical barriers you can install on your roof, and how they’ll help.
Guardrails are the most obvious way to ensure roof safety on your building. Everyone who gets on your roof is at risk of getting distracted or losing their balance, and falling from height. Obviously, this is extremely dangerous. Serious injury or death are the possible outcomes. It is very rare that someone can fall from a roof and not come out extremely hurt at a minimum. When you put guardrails up on your roof, you all but eliminate the risk of someone falling off your building. This is perhaps the most effective way to ensure that everyone on your roof is as safe as possible.
Installing a walkway system on your roof accomplishes two things: it provides a non-slip surface on your roof to prevent slips and falls, and it also directs traffic where you want it to go. By steering walkways away from ledges, or providing a perimeter walkway 6-10 feet away from the edge of the building you can keep people from walking where they shouldn’t. If you don’t have guardrails, a walkway system is a great way to keep people mindful of, and away from, the edge of the roof.
In addition to the two primary benefits, there is a secondary benefit to walkways. Most systems provide additional rigidity to the roof. If you install walkway systems near HVAC units, ladders, and roof hatches, you can prevent damage to those areas of the roof due to increased foot traffic, dropped tools, or dragging equipment. If your roof isn’t damaged, you don’t need to get up on it, which eliminates a large portion of traffic and therefore risk.
Despite the fact that a roof hatch can be a sizable investment on a roof, this can be one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your roof safe. Exterior ladders expose roof visitors to increased fall risks. Permanent ladders can wear over time and become hazards if not properly inspected. Leaning a portable ladder against a building provides a whole other array of safety concerns. Installing a roof hatch allows all roof traffic to enter the roof from a safe environment (platform, ladder or steps inside the building, and to step directly onto the roof without a fall hazard.
If a roof hatch isn’t an option, either due to budget or building design, then fixed ladders are your next best bet. These ladders must be regularly inspected and serviced to ensure they’re in good working condition, but they are safer than leaning a portable ladder against the edge of a building. A fixed ladder provides a cage to help prevent falls, it often has platforms built in, allowing visitors to rest in between stages of the ladder, and it provides a safer step-through at the top. Whenever possible (and when a roof hatch isn’t possible), fixed ladders are preferred.
To prevent falls, you want to be tied off to something when on the roof. If the roof doesn’t have guardrails or parapet walls, permanent anchors can prevent falls for everyone who is tied off. These can be installed throughout the roof so that every part of the roof can still be accessed. If you install tie-offs, you also need to provide harnesses and a fastening system. People on your roof who may not have their own, so you’ll need to provide them.
Knowing your roof layout is crucial to roof safety, but it only protects you. Installing these physical barriers will ensure safety for everyone on your roof who properly utilizes them. You can’t be the only one who utilizes these barriers, though. You must convey to everyone who gets on your roof how they should use these safety barriers to remain safe. If someone doesn’t know how to use the safety equipment won’t be safe on the roof.