Roof guardrails: What to look for when choosing a system

It can be difficult to choose a roof safety system. You need to consider safety, cost, time and how it will affect the roof. You can’t afford to sacrifice safety. If you choose the wrong roof protection method, you could end up putting your life at risk.

Where should I begin?

If you don’t know where to begin, why not learn the “Working at height hierarchy control” ?

First, avoid working at height. However, it is not always possible so collective protection is suggested.

Roof protection provides a collective safety solution. A roof edge system that is suitable for your roof will ensure safety for everyone on the roof, regardless of whether they are maintenance workers or visitors.

The human error often attributed to users can also be eliminated by a collective system. The user won’t have to worry about connecting to a personal safety system or wearing a harness. They can focus on the task at hand.

Avoid personal protection systems whenever possible

As we have seen, the hierarchy dictates that collective protection should prevail over personal protection whenever practical. If guardrails are possible, you shouldn’t make these your first choice.

  • Single Point Anchors
  • Horizontal Lifelines
  • Rigid Rails
  • Anchors for dead weight

Types of roof edge protection

There are many options for roof edge protection. These are the top choices:

Scaffolding

While scaffolding is the best way to protect your workers from falling, it should not be used as a permanent roof edge solution. Keep in mind that not everyone who has access to a roof is a construction worker. Some of them could be maintenance personnel or members of the general public.

Traditional scaffolding is used to gain access to the roof by construction companies. It takes a lot of time to put up and take down. It also gives the site an air of chaos.

Fixed roof handrail

There are advantages and disadvantages to a fixed roof handrail. Although it is stronger than scaffolding, a fixed roof handrail will penetrate your parapet or roof membrane upon installation.

There are many types of roof edge protection systems available, each with different materials and installation requirements. These handrails must be anti-corrosion because they will sit on top of a roof.

Systems in which welding is required

To assemble a welded handrail, you will need to have special labor on-site and it will take a lot of time. If not properly installed, welded points can become weak over time. It will take time to repair or replace sections, and the whole system must be reworked. The galvanizing on steel will be melted by welding, which can lead to corrosion.

Systems in which welding is not necessary

Choose systems that don’t require fabrication on-site whenever possible. Kee Klamp and Kee Lite are both tube and fittings systems that make it easy to build a strong, durable, and easily repairable handrail in a short time. Galvanized steel and aluminium have excellent corrosion resistance, making them ideal for outdoor use.

Systems that attach to the roof or parapet

A parapet is usually equipped with a fixed handrail. It can be installed either on the top or side. It is easier to install and maintain this railing than one that is attached to the side of a building.

Systems that attach to the sides of buildings

Installing the fixed rail on the roof side can solve the problem if there is no parapet at the roof’s edge. Because of the need for access to the roof side, this system can cause problems when installing.

Free standing roof handrail

Roof handrails¬†are freestanding roof rails that do not penetrate the roof membrane. This keeps it waterproof and secure. The system won’t need to be manufactured on-site (ie welding), and it will take very little time to put in. For example, a KeeGuard 100m system can be installed by two people in one day.

Systems in which welding is required

We recommend that you avoid welding, as we have already mentioned.

This is a brief article that explains why.

Systems in which welding is not necessary

We believe that a roof edge protection system that is freestanding and doesn’t require welding is the best. It is easy to set up and maintain, as well as to remove parts or repair any damage. KeeGuard is available in two versions: galvanized steel or aluminium. Both are extremely resistant to corrosion.

Standards

When working at height standards, there are many things to consider. Non-compliant roof edges can put lives at risk and could result in your company being severely fined.

You, the customer, will need to be aware of what standards your roof edge protection must adhere to depending on your project. You can arrange for a risk assessment if you are not sure. Consider the roof pitch, membrane, performance under both dry and wet weather conditions, and whether or not the system has been tested without an upstand. Before you can determine what standards the system must adhere to, it is important to first understand what the system does.

Kee Safety has compiled a list of UK and European standards for edge protection, including those that are temporary and permanent.

  • Workplace Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992
  • BS 6180 Protective Barriers in and Around Buildings 1999
  • Part K of the Building Regulations 2013
  • HSE Specialist Inspectors Report no 15 1987
  • BS 6399 Part 1. Loading for Building 1996
  • BS 6399 Part 2, Code of Practice for Wind Loading 1997
  • 1996 Construction Safety, Health, and Welfare Regulations
  • HSE Health & Safety in Roofwork 2012
  • EN 13374 Temporary Edge Protection Systems. Product Specification, Test Methods 2013.
  • EN 14122-3 Safety machinery. Permanent access to machinery, stairways and stepladders, guardrails 2010
  • 2005 Work at Height Regulations

How can I ensure that a system is actually compliant?

Some companies claim their solution conforms to existing standards, but this is not true. Ask for the company’s test reports on their products. These should be provided by the company and evidence of compliance with the relevant standard.

What standards does KeeGuard follow?

  • EN ISO 14122 Part 3
  • EN 13374 Class B
  • HSG-33 Safety and Health in Roof Work
  • HSE INDG 284 “Working with roofs”

If:

1. It isn’t installed correctly

Any system must be installed according to manufacturer instructions. You could be putting lives at risk by not following the manufacturer’s instructions or using the system in a different way than intended.

Make sure the installation is done by competent personnel

2. It is not maintained regularly

Safety systems should be regularly inspected and maintained. You should immediately stop using any safety system that is not working properly.

3. It is made from an ineligible material

Roof edge protection must be strong enough to support a person’s weight if they fall or lean against it. Wooden materials will not be suitable for roof protection and could pose a risk to someone’s health.

4. It is not resistant to corrosion

Roof edge systems can be protected by anti-corrosion coatings. We recommend avoiding systems made from unsuitable materials and products that require welding. The entire roof protection system may be unfit for its purpose if there is a weak spot. Welded systems are more susceptible to rust than other solutions.

Galvanized steel and aluminium are resistant to corrosion.

5. It does not come with any other safety systems.

If access to the roof is required by ladders, then an appropriate industrial self-closing gate or ladder cage will be needed to ensure safety.

Another example is a roof that has been properly fitted around its edges, but doesn’t consider safety when it comes to other areas. There might be roof hatches left open or roof areas that are fragile and unprotected.

6. You haven’t chosen the right system for your roof type

Consider whether the roof edge protection system you choose will fit your roof type. Most roof edge handrails are not suitable for sloped roofs.

7. It is not built to meet standards

Your life is at risk if your safety system is not built to standard. Be aware of companies who claim to adhere to different standards, but in reality their systems are not compatible. If you are unsure, ask for test reports.

8. It is difficult to install

Consider whether a roof edge protection system will be easy to install, and what safety precautions you should take during installation. Installers shouldn’t be left working on roofs for too long, especially in harsher weather conditions. You want a system that is quick to install and easy to maintain, as well as simple to repair.

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