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Raising the roof…on safe access

13 February 2020

The preference from the ‘Health and Safety Executive’ is that access to high level areas are either restricted or prevented with plant placed at ground level. However, when access is required for complying with roof warrantees and also the clearing of debris with other maintenance issues, this is often impossible to achieve. Safetyworks & Solutions MD Marco Norman provides an insight.

Safety should always be paramount. Arguably, landlords and facilities management companies have an obligation to ensure that these areas can be accessed safely withmeasures in place to prevent falls from open edges and also glazing and roof lights that may be deemed as fragile once safe access is provided.

Readers of ‘Health and Safety Matters’ will be familiar with a combination of street properties and blocks with a variety of flat and pitched roofs. For the purposes of this article, we will be dealing specifically with access to blocks of flats; but the same responsibility lies upon street properties where maintenance contractors should be used and correct temporary measures are adopted at all times, such as scaffold or MEWPS with mobile ladders that are secured as the last option for short duration works only.

Access up?

Generally fixed caged access ladders or stairs to EN 14122 will suffice. These can be easily adapted for access through hatches and doors. Security shields can be added tokeep access to the hatches safe. When ladders pass through hatches, telescopic grab handles are ideal to aid access in and out; barriers with self closing gates should beconsidered to prevent falls through the hatch!

Where fixed ladders cannot be fitted, mobile ladders with safety devices stored in security boxes adjacent to the access is a great option.

Lifelines… or barriers?

The hierarchy of controls calls for barriers providing collective protecting above all other measures. Guardrails come in the form of both freestanding handrails and fixed handrail the standard recently adopted is EN 13374 Class A; this meets half of the load called for by the old British standard!

When choosing a system consider where it is going if it is to this standard as the loads are very light .34 k/n.

The standard states that it should accept the weight of a person leaning against it. The old standard HSE/SR 15 Sept 1988 is still adopted by many maintaining the .74 k/n load& will also meet most wind loads and offering much reassurance. These systems tend to be clamp and tube type and fairly rudimentary to look at. Don’t be fooled though; there are products out there where the systems can be levelled to run parallel with upstands, more attractive curved legs used and why not roll out the barrel and have it powder coated!.

Accessible pitch roofs

Fall restraint systems should be used if barriers cannot. These are ideal for modern steel and membrane roofs.

The end user is attached to a fixed length lanyard and prevented from reaching unguarded edges. Arrest systems are to be avoided at all times. Systems installed to the centre of roofs with untrained staff can be used to inspect either side of the system only so long as the lanyard length prevents access to any open edges.

Remember, your wire based systems and anchor points require annual service and inspection; again by a competent safety installation company. The end user is on a fixedlength lanyard with the cable placed marginally further back from the edge restraining the user from falling.

The system should be tagged correctly with service and inspection dates. A system that is out of test should not be used!

For more information, visit www.safetyworksandsolutions.co.uk