Fall Protection for Rooftop Challenges

Not all rooftops are simple.  There may be some rooftop challenges such as parapets, pipes, or other fall hazard obstacles.  Frequently, rooftop equipment needs regular maintenance necessitating workers on the rooftop.  Fall protection for rooftops is necessary to prevent injuries and fatalities.  First of all, before considering some fall protection for rooftop challenges, it is prudent to revisit some fall protection requirements.

Fall Protection Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to protect their workers from fall hazards.  For work on flat or low-sloped roofs, OSHA requires fall protection.  If the distance is less than 6 feet from the leading edge, OSHA requires conventional fall protection systems.  Conventional fall protection systems include guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, and safety nets.  Also, if the distance is between 6 and 15 feet from the leading edge, a designated area for temporary work is required with a warning line placed at 6 feet.  (See OSHA’s Standard Number 1926.501)

Furthermore, there are guardrail height requirements.  In general industry OSHA standards designates a 42″ guardrail height.  Similarly, in the construction industry OSHA compliance means guardrails need to be 42 inches plus or minus 3 inches high.

Fall Protection for Rooftop Challenges and Possible Solutions

(1)  Roof Parapet

A roof parapet wall is a part of the roof edge extending above the roof surface.  Heights of roof parapets vary.  Some parapets are very short, providing no protection to workers from falling off an edge.  Parapets need to have the same height requirements as guardrails.  Essentially, a parapet must have a height of 42 inches plus or minus 3 inches for adequate fall protection.

If a parapet does not meet the fall protection height requirement, one possible solution is to utilize a parapet wall fall protection system.  One such system is a parapet wall clamping rail which grips the existing parapet.  Prefabricated powder coated or galvanized steel railings slide into receiving posts and are tightened.  The parapet wall clamping railing system can be used as a temporary or permanent roof fall protection system.  Furthermore, the installation of this product provides needed fall protection for an OSHA compliant work space.

(2)  Obstacles Next to Roof Edge

Sometimes roof hatches or mechanical equipment where workers need to access are next to the roof edge.  Consequently, there may be little room to provide fall protection.  One possible solution is a custom-fabricated railing section which wraps around the obstacle with an appropriate shaped section to provide a barrier between the obstacle and the leading edge.   Go here for more customized guardrail solution details.

(3)  Interior Obstacles

There may be fall hazards not only at the roof edge, but also near a fixed object in the path of workers.  Obstacles may include piping, ducts, or other equipment.  As a result, workers need to climb, hop, or jump over obstacles.  In these instances, one solution to avoid injury to workers is a roof crossover system.  A crossover system includes a set of stairs which allow workers on a rooftop to safely pass over obstacles.   Rooftop crossovers are customizable, provides fall protection, and complies with OSHA regulations.   Another solution to consider is a fixed roof access ladder system.  Such a system allows safe access to different levels of a roof or rooftop equipment.  There is a variety of options such as a fixed roof access ladder platform available for customization.

When it comes right down to it, roofs are dangerous.   Consequently, it is important to mitigate fall hazards with fall protection systems.