Flat Roofs – Non-Fragile and Walkable Explained

May 24 2018 0comment

Flat Roofs – Non-Fragile and Walkable Explained

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A couple of weeks ago we brought you some information on the pros and cons of metal roofing.  Metal roofing materials vary widely and it is considered a strong and durable option, especially on flat roofs.  A metal roof will typically last between 30 and 50 years, is fireproof and has great insulation properties which is why the use of metal is on the increase here in the UK.  However, just because metal is strong and durable, this doesn’t mean that it is always safe to walk on a metal roof.  With so many commercial premises in the UK needing roof access for maintenance and repair of plant and machinery, a metal roof seems like the safest option to walk on, but there are issues to consider when it comes to accessing a roof safely, especially on a regular basis.

A metal roof can only be deemed non-fragile and safe for access when it is tested as a complete roof assembly as the entire roof system needs testing to meet this standard.  Failure to do this may compromise both the strength of the system and the safety of anybody stepping onto the roof.  A metal roof should not be deemed safe to access unless the entire roof system has been tested. 

When a roof is deemed non-fragile, this does not mean that it can be considered walkable – this is a popular misconception, especially for metal roofs.  A non-fragile roof system which has been correctly installed may be able to withstand the weight of a person standing on it, but this still does not mean that it is safe to walk on.  On the other hand, a walkable structure should not fail or show any signs of damage after being walked on but it cannot be guaranteed to be non-fragile unless tested.  These principles must be comprehended in order to operate safely in the roofing environment. 

Modern roofing systems should be designed to cater for an increased level of foot traffic so that those who need to access the roof can do so safely.  A correctly installed modern roofing system, combined with training and safety equipment should eliminate the risk of falling through.  There are cases where a contractor may encourage the use of less costly roofing and cladding supplies during the construction phase, breaking specification in order to reduce costs.  This may result in a roofing system that is not fit for purpose and can lead to serious consequences if the system fails. 

For commercial premises that feature a flat roof which houses machinery such as heating or cooling systems, it’s essential for the building owner to provide a safe means of access for regular maintenance and repair.  One way in which to do this is to install a roof walker system that has been specifically designed for use on flat roofs.  They are a cost effective solution, being easy to install without the need to penetrate the roof covering and will provide workers who need access with a safe, non-slip path to the areas where they need to work.

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