By John Hynes.
Working on roofs, be it during construction or for cleaning and maintenance, invariably involves working at height. This means that there is a need to protect workers from falling and being injured. Responsibility for providing this protection lies with the workers themselves, their managers and the building designer. In the UK, this responsibility is a legal one under CDM & Work at Height Regulations.
There is a hierarchy to how Fall Protection measures should be considered: first of all work at height should be avoided, but this isn’t usually possible for roof work; secondly falls should be avoided and there are various means of providing Fall Prevention protection; finally if a fall cannot be avoided the consequences of the fall should be mitigated and again there are various means of providing Fall Arrest protection.
For both Fall Prevention and Fall Arrest, there are Collective and Personal means that can be used. Collective protection means that any and all workers in an area are protected by the same system and without taking any specific steps to protect themselves. The most obvious example of collective protection for a roof would be a parapet wall around the edge of the roof. Personal protection means that individual workers must take specific action to protect themselves, such as wearing a harness and connecting to an anchorage system with a lanyard. Collective protection should be considered before Personal protection measures are.
The most appropriate solution for any application should consider what is ‘reasonably practicable’, i.e. the risk to the worker should be considered in relation to the cost of decreasing the level of that risk. This means that the type of equipment provided, the competency of the worker in working at height and the level of management control in place, must all be considered when designing and selecting the fall protection system.
At Kingspan, we are able to provide solutions for safe working at height across the spectrum from Fall Prevention to Fall Arrest and Collective to Personal.
Collective Fall Prevention can be provided by use of guard rail systems; these can be free-standing and usually do not need to be mechanically fixed in to the roof structure. If there are roof lights on the roof, regardless of their non-fragility rating, these should be considered as fall hazards and guards should be provided.
Personal Fall Prevention can be provided by a Personal Fall Protection System where the worker connects their harness to an anchorage system with a lanyard and is restrained from reaching any location where they may fall.
Collective Fall Arrest is usually only used during construction and is provided by nets which will catch any workers that may fall from the roof.
Personal Fall Arrest can be provided by means of a Personal Fall Protection System, but where the potential for a fall cannot be eliminated. If a fall does occur the system will minimise the extent and consequences of the fall.