Working on a Flat Roof
Flat roofs are generally characterised as being up to 10° in pitch are usually covered with a waterproof membrane such as felt. When it comes to working on a flat roof falls are most likely to occur:
- From the edge of a completed roof
- During surveying, inspection or construction
- From the edge where work is being carried out
- Through openings or gaps
- Through surfaces that are (or have become) fragile – for example strawboard, unfixed, profiled metal, decking or aged roof lights and skylights (which we recently covered)
If the design of the roof itself does not provide a permanent edge protection such as a solid parapet wall of at least 950 mm in height, temporary edge protection is required such as guard rails or toe boards.
If limited work is being carried out on sections of a large roof and edge protection around the whole perimeter is not reasonably practicable, a simple form of continuous physical barrier should be used at a distance of at least 2 metres from the edge of the roof so that the work area can be identified and safe access provided to the work area. There should be no unprotected holes, breaks or fragile material within the safe area. If there are any, they should be protected with robust covers or continuous physical barriers. All barriers must be durable and immediately obvious – bunting, tape or marking at foot level are not considered adequate protection.
This is where a rooftop barrier demarcation system comes into play. Demarcation barriers can be used to prevent access to the edge of the roof where a fall is likely to occur and will also prevent access to fragile roof lights and skylights. A rooftop demarcation barrier system will establish a boundary identifying the safe areas containing workplaces and safe routes to and from work areas. If these are used then the following issues need to be taken into consideration:
- The boundary/barrier should be at least 2 metres from the nearest fragile material
- While the boundary does not need to comply with full edge protection standards, there should be a continuous physical barrier (again, a painted line or bunting is not acceptable)
- It is essential to make sure that everybody working on the roof stays within the safe area at all times
It’s vital to remember that poor weather conditions make roofing work more dangerous. Rain, ice, frost and strong winds (particularly gusting winds) present hazards which should be avoided. Winds in excess of 23 mph (Force 5) will affect the balance of workers on a roof, adding an extra danger to work that is already hazardous.