Your Edge Protection Questions Answered

By Jason Godfrey, General Manager, Safesite Limited

I recently wrote a piece about ladders being banned on buildings sites and looked at other typical ladder questions.

Working in the industry, we sometimes forget that what seems obvious to us can in fact be confusing to people outside the industry. At the end of the ladder post I invited people to email any questions relating to my next topic, edge protection.  The response was incredible, to a point that there are simply too many to cover in one post, so, over the next couple of weeks I will be covering your most common questions.

Should guardrail be fitted on the edge of a roof?

The answer, in a nutshell, is not always.  Although often referred to as edge protection, the positioning of a guardrail on a roof depends entirely on the individual access requirements and specifications.

It is generally recommended that guardrails are positioned around the perimeter of the roof as this would allow for safe access to the gutter and unforeseen maintenance requirements, for example, if a roof was to leak.  On occasions it may not be reasonably practical to install guardrail around the whole roof perimeter so we may position guardrail on a roof to allow access for routine maintenance only such as to maintain air conditioning units.

As always, no two working at height requirements are the same.  The safe access methods and controls specified can vary greatly depending upon the type of access required. A full risk assessment should be undertaken by a competent person with sufficient knowledge and understanding of working at height access requirements.  The risk assessment should take into consideration all hazards, who may be harmed and how, when and how frequently access is required and the environment in order to properly evaluate the risk. If a guardrail system is deemed to be the most appropriate method of protection, then the risk assessment would help determine where the edge protection should be positioned.

Can a guardrail be folded down?

Folding or collapsible guardrails are available for applications where the aesthetics of the building plays a part in the specification decision.  We would normally recommend positioning the folding guardrail 1m or more from the roof edge.  A folded down guardrail positioned 1m from the roof edge will leave a 2m or more demarcation zone in which you can safely upright the system.

We wouldn’t recommend uprighting the folding guardrail at the roof edge without the use of additional safety controls.  You may then ask, “why not simply use the additional safety controls to undertake the planned task in the first place?”  This question would be answered at the initial risk assessment stage.  It may be that access is required for multiple users and the first person up uses personal protective measures to safely upright the guardrail, allowing their colleagues to follow and work in a collective protected environment.

One of the benefits of a standard guardrailing solution and one of the main reasons why it is specified over a personal protective solution is that the user doesn’t have to participate in the implementation of the control method. It is worth bearing in mind that some of this benefit is lost when using a folding guardrail solution because the user may have to participate in uprighting the guardrail.

Does guardrail need to be a certain height?

Guardrail should be manufactured to a minimum height which is normally specified at 1100mm, but this depends on the application and the criteria of the standard you are trying to adhere to.

For temporary edge protection systems, standard EN13374 stipulates that the height of the system shall be at least 1m when measured perpendicular to the working surface. The maximum gap in the system shall not exceed 470mm. Where there is no upstand of at least 150mm high at the edge of the drop,  a toe board should form part of the system. This is the most common standard used when specifying rooftop guardrails.

Standard EN14122 applies to guardrails to machinery and is the most common standard quoted when specifying ground based guardrail systems.   Here the minimum overall height of a guardrail system should be 1100mm and it should consist of at least one mid rail.  The clear gap between the rails and the floor shall not exceed 500mm.  Ideally there should be a kerb of at least 100m high in front of the guardrail to prevent items being dropped over the edge of the floor, but if this is not possible, a suitable toe board of at least 100mm high should be provided as a part of the guardrail system. The maximum allowable gap between the floor and the underside of the toe board should not exceed 10mm.

To Be Continued….

Next week I’ll answer some more of your edge protection questions, but don’t forget if you have any work at height question, please feel to email [email protected]

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