On traditional pitched roofs most people fall:

  • From eaves.
  • By slipping down the roof and then over the eaves.
  • Through the roof internally, e.g. during roof truss erection.
  • From gable ends.

Edge Protection

Full edge protection at eaves level will normally be required for work on sloping roofs. The edge protection needs to be strong enough to withstand a person falling against it. The longer the slope and the steeper the pitch the stronger the edge protection needs to be. A properly designed and installed independent scaffold platform at eaves level will usually be enough. Less substantial scaffolding barriers (rather than platforms) may not be strong enough for work on larger or steeper roofs, especially slopes in excess of 30°. On some larger roofs, the consequences of sliding down the whole roof and hitting the eaves edge protection may be such that intermediate platforms at the work site are needed to prevent this happening.

If the work requires access within 2m of gable ends, edge protection will be needed there as well as at the eaves. Powered access platforms can provide good access as an alternative to fixed edge protection. They can be particularly useful in short-duration work (See ‘Short Duration Work on Sloping Roofs‘ below) and during demolition when gaps are created in the roof.

Roof Ladders

Slates and tiles do not provide a safe footing especially when they are wet. Properly designed roof ladders or crawling boards are an essential aid to any work on sloping roofs. They should be long enough to span the supports (at least three rafters) and securely placed. Roof ladder anchorages should bear on the opposite roof and not rely on the ridge tiles for support as these can easily break away. Do not use gutters to support any ladder.

Roof battens can be an alternative to roof ladders but if relied on it is essential that their strength is established beforehand. Battens often fail. (They should be attached to rafters no more than 450mm apart if used as footing.)

Short-Duration Work on Sloping Roofs

Short-duration work means tasks that are measured in minutes rather than hours. It includes such jobs as replacing a few tiles or adjusting a televison aerial. Work on a roof is still dangerous even if it only lasts a short time.

Appropriate safety measures are essential.

For short-duration work it may not be reasonably practicable to provide full edge protection (but if it is it should be provided). This does not mean that nothing needs to be provided in its place. The minimum requirements for short-duration work on a roof are:

  • A safe means of access to roof level.
  • A properly constructed and supported roof ladder.

Roof workers should not work directly on tiles or slates.

Erecting Roof Trusses

If possible, reduce the need for work at height by assembling roof sections on the ground and craning them into position. If trusses are assembled in situ, provide a safe working platform, preferably by boarding out the area as close as possible to the underside of the trusses, or alternatively supporting a platform on the truss members. If a separate platform is used, make sure it can safely support the worker and has edge protection. The truss members may provide adequate edge protection but not always. If possible, an adequate working platform should be provided which protects against falls during roof truss erection. If a platform does not provide complete protection then safety nets can be provided as well to catch anyone who falls.

Industrial Roofing

Building and working on steel framed wide-span industrial roofs involves a number of hazards, such as falls:

  • From the roof edge.
  • Through gaps in the partially completed roof.
  • Through liner panels.
  • From the leading edge when unprotected gaps are inevitable.
  • From the frame, e.g. when loading out with roof sheets.

These hazards can all arise not only at the working position but also the routes to and from it.

Systems of Work

Good planning can significantly reduce the risks involved in industrial roofing. Key elements are as follows.

Reduce the need for workers to travel about the roof by:

  • Arranging for the right sheets to be delivered as they are needed to the right place at the right time.
  • Arranging access points that are convenient for the working position.
  • Making full use of loading bays.
  • Minimising the potential for falls by providing a safe place of work (e.g. properly guarded working platforms or powered access equipment) rather than relying on fall arrest equipment to restrict a fall.

Falls From the Roof Edge

Full edge protection (comprising top rail, toe board and intermediate protection) is required whenever the work requires access within 2m of the roof perimeter.

Falls Through Gaps

If work involves any likelihood of access within 2m of such gaps they should be covered. If this is not possible provide edge protection or as a last resort install safety netting beneath the gap.

Falls Through Liner Panels

Liner panels on their own should be considered as fragile unless it has been conclusively confirmed that they are not. Try to avoid ‘lining out’ the shell to weatherproof the site. This will avoid the need for second pass at height as well as the presence of a large expanse of potentially fragile material.

Consider the use of composite panels to reduce the need for work at height.

Falls From the Leading Edge

Whatever system of work is chosen the presence of dangerous gaps is always a possibility as space is created to place the next leading edge sheet. Options to deal with this include:

  • Temporary barriers at the leading edge, such as trolley systems.
  • Birdcage scaffolds.
  • Safety nets.
  • Safety harnesses used with running line systems.

Safety nets are the least problematic and hence the preferred option. Trolley systems can be a useful aid, but are not appropriate for all roofs, e.g. where there are hips or dormers. Remember that installing and moving such systems can involve significant risks. Where trolley systems are used, make sure that:

  • There is a safe system of work for installing and dismantling them.
  • The trolley system is compatible with the purlin design.
  • There is a safe system of work for moving the trolleys.
  • The trolley can move freely – if it jams it can be dangerous trying to release it.
  • There is safe access to the trolley.
  • The trolley is locked in position so that it does not overturn if someone falls onto it.
  • There is a suitable barrier at the trolley end if someone could fall from it.

If trolley systems are used, the system of work needs to be carefully thought out to avoid unnecessary risks, e.g. can roof workers lock the trolley in position after it has been moved forward without stepping over the newly created gap?

Make sure that either safety nets or harnesses are used to protect against falls through the gaps created as the leading edge moves forward.

If safety nets are used make sure that they:

  • Are installed as close as possible beneath the roof surface.
  • Are securely attached and will withstand a person falling onto them.
  • Are installed and maintained by competent personnel.

If harnesses are used make sure that they:

  • Are securely attached to an adequate anchorage point (trolley guard rails are not usually strong enough).
  • Are appropriate for the user and in good condition.
  • Are actually and properly used – ensuring this requires tight discipline.

Safety netting is the preferred fall arrest option since it provides collective protection and does not rely on individual user discipline to guarantee acceptable safety standards. They can simplify systems of work and can protect not only roof workers, but others such as supervisors.

Falling Materials

Try to avoid leaving materials on the roof when the site is closed especially at weekends and during holiday periods. If materials are left on the roof make sure that they are secured so that they cannot be blown off the roof by windy weather. Make sure that toe boards are in place around the roof perimeter.

Control other trades’ access to areas underneath roofing work, unless protection such as debris netting is provided which ensures protection for anyone working underneath.

Manual Handling

Handling awkward roof sheets is a particular problem for roof workers and can lead to back injuries which can cause a lifetime of pain and disability. Minimise the need for manual handling by using mechanical handling devices, e.g. hoists, to deliver materials where they are actually needed on the roof.

Where manual handling cannot be avoided arrange systems which make manual handling easier. Provide workers with information about the weight of the loads they will have to carry.

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