PART 1 – Elevation

This blog looks at the fall protection issues relating to accessing roofs of predominately non-domestic buildings.  It does not cover slate roofs or other steep roofs, or cement roofs, although much of part 1 may be relevant.  There are many issues to consider and all organisations who have flat roofs will need to have a strategy and method and risk in place.

The first question to consider is how to get onto the roof?  If the roof is 7m or less in height and you are only accessing typically once a year for maintenance then you may consider a temporary ladder (authors opinion).  For this to be done as safely as  possible you will need a level platform at ground level, ladder lashing points with a minimum strength of 2.5kN and ladder lashing straps that are tensionable.  You should use a class 1 ladder with enough height to extend to 1m above roof level when angled at 75 degrees.  Always wear a working at height helmet when accessing your roof.  If you have a big parapet causing a step down from the access point, a temporary ladder may not be suitable.  There are many falls each year from temporary ladders and consideration should be given to alternative methods of access.

Using a cherry picker or scissor lift to access a roof is a perfectly reasonable method.  IPAF previously trained operatives that this was not acceptable but have since seen sense and now advise that it is subject to adequate method and risk.  You will need to ensure you have suitable terrain, trained operatives and the budget available to hire or buy the access plant.

Given the disadvantages of the above two methods it is clear why fixed hooped ladders are popular.  However, in 2012 the HSE published guidance that the hoops of hooped ladders may not be effective at arresting a fall.  In fact they can do serious damage!  On top of this the hazards of fixed ladders  are often exacerbated by bad installs.  All too often we find that a ladders’ design has failed to take account of a protruding gutter or fascia and the required 150mm of foot room behind the wrung is not present.   This means at the very top of the ladder you end up with just your toes on the ladder rungs!  We also frequently find that although a top gate is a requirement of the British Standard for fixed ladders, one is rarely provided.   At Fall Protection Solutions we solve these  problems by installing a vertical cable fall arrest system.  Operatives attach to the cable via a grab device connected to the front of their harness.  The operative is free to climb with all hands on the ladder.  In the event of a slip the grab device latches onto the vertical cable and arrests the fall.  An extension pole at the top of the ladder extends the system above the top platform height aiding smooth transition from ladder to roof.  An additional anchor point towards the top of the extension post is used to connect the operatives’ lanyard to further enhance the transition from ladder to roof.

Vertical Cable Fall Arrest System

Safe Roof Access on Fixed Ladder

When we do this it is important that we remove all but the top two hoops.  This ensures that any fall that occurs is clean, allowing the fall arrest devices to operate correctly.  It also facilitates rescue which could otherwise be hindered by the hoops.  Rescue and training will be covered in Part 3 of our Roof Access Strategy series.  Next, part 2 will go on to discuss transition to roof and on roof solutions.  Follow so as not to miss it!