Close to the Edge – Working on Roofs
If you’re working on a roof top site, there should really be some sort of protective equipment at the edge to ensure safety at all times. Falls from roof edges happen in both commercial and domestic settings, whether these are new builds or refurbishment projects and there are still too many deaths here in the UK every year that are a result of small builders working on the roof of a residential premises.
When working on sloping roofs scaffolding should be erected in order to prevent people, tools or materials from falling off the edge. There should also be edge protection fitted to the eaves of any roof and on terraced houses to the rear as well as at the front. If the work is to be of short duration (tasks that just take minutes), then properly secured ladders may be used to access the roof and roof ladders used for access to different parts of the roof.
When working on a flat roof, falls can be prevented by adopting a roof edge protection system – a secure double guardrail and toe boards around the edge of the whole roof.
When working on a roof with unprotected edges then it’s vital that demarcation barriers are provided at a safe distance from the edge of the roof (this distance is usually 2 metres). These demarcation barriers must be visible and obvious and access to the roof should be fully controlled so that only fully briefed and competent workers are allowed onto that area. There should also be appropriate supervision to ensure that nobody goes beyond the barriers and the barriers should be easily placed and retrieved without a need to approach the edge of the roof.
Demarcation barriers are often created using cones and tape but any company that needs to use the demarcation barriers on a regular basis should consider a more permanent solution such as a dedicated demarcation barrier system like D-marc™. Unlike cones and tape, the D-marc™ system is able to withstand wind speeds in excess of 105 mph and the system is fabricated from 304 stainless steel so that they are both strong and durable. The uprights are connected using plastic chain which is weather proof and resistant to chemicals, frost and salt and the design of the uprights ensure that wind circulates through the structure rather than pushing it over.
Employers and supervisors have a duty of care to those who work at height and must ensure that the work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent workers. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) have been created to make working on roofs and other high places as safe as possible here in the UK and statistics show that there has been a steady reduction in deaths and injuries caused by falls from a height over the past 20 years. While we cannot always make sure that there is no risk involved whatsoever, careful planning and following the Regulations will go a long way towards reducing the risks.