Fragile Roof Access Systems for Safe Work at Height

Fragile Roof Access Systems for Safe Work at Height

21st August 2019

Working on fragile surfaces comes with associated hazards. According to the Health and Safety Executive, falls through fragile roofs account for a fifth of the total fatal accidents resulting from a fall from height in the construction industry, but anyone who must access a fragile roof is at risk.

Deaths or disabling injuries caused by falls through fragile roofs occur mainly to construction and building maintenance workers; on average, 7 people lose their life each year after falling through a fragile surface while carrying out repair or cleaning work.

Which Roofs Present Most Risks?

While all fragile roofs are more dangerous than standard flat or pitched roofs, some are more at risk than others. Fragile roof access systems should be employed whenever you’re working on:

  • Old roof lights and skylights
  • Slate and tile roofs
  • Old build-up sheeted roofs
  • Non-reinforced fibre cement sheeted roofs
  • Old corroded metal sheets
  • Glass roofs, even when they are made of wired glass

Types of Access Systems for Fragile Roofs

The easiest way to prevent falls from height is to work from beneath; this is not always possible however. It is essential to ensure the use of one of the following access systems whenever workers need access to the topside of the roof:

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms

Ideal for situations when standing onto a fragile roof can be avoided, but workers still need access to the topside of the roof.

These platforms elevate the workers who can then carry out their work from the basket; the risk is minimal as they won’t step onto the fragile roof at all.

Aluminium Walkways

A walkway can create a stable surface your workers can step onto when access onto the fragile roof cannot be avoided.

Such walkways can be laid onto roof falls, levelled across the roof slope or stepped up the roof slope.

Modularity and various configuration options make this roof access system ideal for both flat and pitched roofs and it’s also safe to install over skylights or roof lights.

Aluminium walkways come with or without handrails and can provide safe rooftop access regardless of whether you’re working at the edge or not.

Other Ways to Mitigate Fall Distance and Consequences

Besides safe access, you should also consider other safety systems when working on fragile roofs. These measures include:

  • Installing perimeter edge protection and use proprietary covers to spread the load
  • If possible, fit all platforms and access walkways with guardrails
  • Install safety nets beneath the roof to limit the fall distance
  • Use harness systems and adequate anchorage points   

Bottom Line

Safe access to fragile roofs shouldn’t be taken lightly. The best way to protect your workers is to prevent access or stepping onto the topside of the roof whenever possible. If access to the rooftop is essential and you need a modular aluminium walkway, please get in touch. Our systems can suit a wide range of rooftop applications preventing you or your workers ending up as one of the Health and Safety Executive’s ‘deaths through fall’ statistics.