Enhanced Work at Height Safety with Step Units

Enhanced Work at Height Safety with Step Units

08th August 2019

Rooftops are risky workplaces. While pitched roofs are the most hazardous, flat roofs have associated risks too.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of flat roofs is the difference in levels between its various sides. Pipes, cable trays, air conditioning installations, parapets, wires, and other similar obstacles can easily jeopardise your safety.

According to the Work at Height Regulations, it is your responsibility as a contractor or building owner to ensure the safety of your workers.

A step unit can greatly enhance work safety at heights and protect your employees from a fall hazard.

Types of Step Units

Depending on the nature of installation you need – permanent or temporary – and the types of obstacles on the roof, you can choose from various types of step units.

  • Modular step over units: Can be either mini or large. Mini step over units are typically used for obstacles of up to 400 mm in height. They are suitable to install over low lying pipework and tubes and can be easily removed when no longer needed. Large units are usually suitable for obstacles of up to 1400 mm in height and have a more complex structure. They are typically equipped with handrails and are overall more robust than the mini units. All modular step units usually come pre-assembled; they are easy to install and dismantle as needed.
  • Fixed step over units: Similar to the modular ones, they can have various sizes. The main difference is that these units are fixed to the ground. They are often installed when there is a need for constant access to the roof for either work or maintenance purposes.

Once you decided which type of step unit you need, you must also consider the materials.

Most step units are made from galvanised steel or other types of weather-resistant materials and can have mesh or solid decking.

Solid decking is undoubtedly more resistant, but it can become slippery on rainy days or if liquids are spilled, including oil or lubricants. If you’d like step units with solid decking, a model with rubberised surface could be the best solution.

Mesh decking has fewer hazards as it provides adequate drainage.

When to Install Step Units

Step units can be useful whenever you have to step over different obstacles. They enhance safety even when the obstacles are small. 

These systems are often used for obstacles such as parapets or large piping, but they can also be employed when working on fragile roofs. For instance, you can place a modular step unit over a skylight to facilitate access from one side of the roof to the other.

For complete fall protection, step units should be used together with other safety systems including guardrails, flat roof barriers, safety nets and other anchoring systems, especially when working close to the roof edge.