The following article on Rooftop Safety is from Audrey June and our friends at Columbia Building Services. They are an awesome Provider for ELC with services ranging from rooftop safety systems to snow removal to building restoration.

Don’t be a Humpty Dumpty!

humpty dumptyOver the last few years there has been a lot of talk and confusion about Rooftop Safety to the point many properties are leaving themselves unknowingly open to Humpty Dumpty type situations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 13% of all workplace fatalities or 574 incidents were fall related, with 3 out of 5 occurring at heights less than 20 ft.

How do you know if you’re leaving yourself at risk? The first step is identifying the hazards and here is a general rule of thumb you can use, which is based off OSHA standard 1910.23.

Remember 6’-6’-42”

Are you or any contractor/employee working on a horizontal surface which is more than 6’ high and 6’ from an edge that does not have a guard rail or parapet wall at height greater than 42”?

After identifying the areas, there are three main methods of prevention. Keep in mind for any safety procedure to be effective it should be understandable and easy to use. Otherwise you may find people taking shortcuts or skipping the usage all together, which leaves you exposed and your pockets empty for nothing.


fall preventionFall prevention methods are best used in areas where there is a piece of equipment near a low roof edge which needs periodic maintenance. A good example would be a roof top unit located within the 6’-6’-42” guideline of a roof edge. It may not be something which is accessed daily but you have a contractor inspecting the unit quarterly.

A guard rail either non-penetrating or penetrating would help ensure the safety of the individual as well as keep the property owner in compliance with OSHA. Non-penetrating guardrails are also an attractive solution when cost and maintenance are a concern, as they sit on a protective pad on top of the roof structure. Cost is minimized as installation is fairly simple and initial structural engineering or future certification is not needed.

Fall arrest systems

fall arrest systemsFall arrest systems consist of a full body harness which is paired with hardware to slow the persons rate of descent should a fall occur. Typically these elements are tied into the roof system or other structural points which have been certified to withstand a 5,000lb max force load. They must be pull tested at half max capacity by a qualified individual every 10 years and visual inspected annually to be in compliance.
To determine which fall arrest system makes the most sense for your property it is recommended to work with a structural engineer. They are able to identify natural anchor points as well as make sure any roof anchors or horizontal life lines layouts which are placed to make both economical and practical sense for usage.

Fall arrest systems are ideal when aesthetics is a concern and when the working area requires access to the exterior façade of the building. For example replacing an overhanging light bulb where there is not a 42”parapet wall. These systems can also be created for usage for window cleaning and other exterior façade maintenance where suspension is necessary.

Safety plans

Fall Protection Safety Plans really go hand in hand with the first two methods as proper training and creating best practices are the first to ensure the proper usage of guardrails/barricades and fall arrest. Fall protection safety plans can be as simple as placing signage warning of fall hazards to annual employee training. Either way the liability for following safety procedures is shared by both property owner and contractor.

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If you’re still unsure whether your property is out of compliance, Columbia Building Services offers free site assessments. To schedule an appointment, email or call 612-331-2090.