The Safe2Torch Campaign for Roofing Contractors
As we said in our News Roundup last week, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) is running a campaign which aims to significantly reduce the risk of roof fires when using gas torches, either to dry out roofs or when installing torch-on membranes. As promised, we’re bringing you a more detailed view of the Safe2Torch campaign which ties in with the Health and Safety Executive’s “Helping Great Britain Work Well” strategy which promotes a healthier and safer working environment.
The NFRC believes that those who create risks have a responsibility to manage those risks and the Safe2Torch campaign is designed to ensure that all fire risks are identified at the survey stage and factored into the specification. This means that where a fire risk has been identified (or cannot be ruled out), then the relevant parts of that specification must default to torch-free solutions.
The Safe2Torch campaign is likely to affect at least half of all the flat roofs currently in the UK, many of which are on commercial and industrial buildings. Roof fires caused by a gas torch pose a serious threat to life, property, the construction industry’s image and, it’s claimed, possibly the long-term future of torch-on as an accepted method of covering a roof. The NFRC believes that fires of this nature can be prevented with safe working practices and safe specifications. A pre-work check should include an assessment of the substrate.
A torch should never be applied direct to a timber roof deck or upstands (including timber fillets), even if the substrate has been treated with a bituminous primer. A self-adhesive base layer or mechanically-fastened layer should be used to prevent the timber substrate coming into contact with a naked flame.
Expansion joints which are filled with combustible fillers (fibreboard or foam) should not come in contact with high heat or a naked flame.
If a membrane roof is adjoining a pitched roof with details to be completed below abutments to roof tiles/slates, the slates/tiles should be removed and a compatible torch-free product should be selected.
A compatible torch-free product should be used for any abutments with open cavities or open perpends.
A naked flame should be avoided if there is fixed timber, plastic fascia or soffits.
Other areas where a torch-free alternative should be used:
Rooflight kerbs and upstands
Extra attention should be given to concealed flammable materials where there is a possibility that a flame may travel and ignite particles in inaccessible/hidden areas such as:
- Timber, DPC or sarking membranes underneath fixed metal capping systems
- Louvered vents, air ducts, intakes and outtakes
- Existing kitchen extraction plant coated in oils or fat
- Existing metal or plastic coping/capping
- Existing vulnerable plastic curbs, domes, pipes.
If possible, newly installed roof decking should be protected from the weather so that drying out is unnecessary. If a roof should get wet, then it’s vital that it is dried out in a safe manner. The most common method of drying a roof is by using a gas torch. If a gas torch is to be used for drying, a thorough roof examination must be undertaken in order to determine all fire related risks. Where risks are identified, the worker must adopt a torch-free area in line with the public liability insurance – it’s recommended that this should be no less than 900 mm.
Methods of drying within a restricted area must be limited to wiping with absorbent rags, mops, etc. and then allowing natural weather conditions to complete the process or the use of hot air guns.