Your Edge Protection Questions – Part Two

By Jason Godfrey, General Manager, Safesite Limited

Thank you for such a positive response to the first part of our Edge Protection Q&A post.  This week I’m following on with some more of your common questions relating to this topic. 


Does rooftop guardrail need to be fixed permanently to the roof structure?

The decision to attach an edge protection guardrail to the roof structure depends on a number of factors such as the roof type, pitch, location and the type of access required.  In the majority of applications rooftop guardrails are completely freestanding with no requirement to penetrate the roof structure.

All guardrails should be manufactured and installed to the specified standard and as such are required to meet certain load criteria.  Some people have concerns about freestanding guardrail moving when operatives lean against it but as long as the guardrail has been installed to the correct specified standard, based on the anticipated load requirements, then it should not move with human interaction.

It is probable that in certain exposed areas wind loadings could pose a potential hazard. As with most structures it is important at the design stage to take into account the wind load requirements, in certain applications it may be necessary to conduct an individual wind load calculation based on the location, application and design of the guardrail.


Guardrail tested to standards


How do I decide if I need edge protection or a fall arrest/restraint line type of system?

No two working at height applications or requirements are the same so the access methods and controls specified can vary greatly depending on the type of access required.

The safest method of control would normally be specified after a full risk assessment has been undertaken. The working at height hierarchy of controls as detailed in the Work at Height Regulations and relevant standards should be understood and where relevant adhered to. When it is not possible to design out the fall hazard, a non-user participant type of collective control such as guardrails would be the preferred option specified.

However, sometimes in certain applications a collective control may not be practical and user participant personal protection could offer a more practical solution. Fall Arrest/Restraint Lifelines could be example of this. The Risk Assessment should be undertaken by a competent person with an adequate knowledge and understanding of the working at height access requirements. The Risk Assessment should take into consideration all hazards, who may be harmed and how, when and how frequent access is required and the environment in order to properly evaluate the risk. In certain applications cost and aesthetics can play their part in the decision process as to what type of control method is specified.


Does guardrail need to be inspected every year?

Regulation 5 of the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations, the Work at Height Regulations and BS EN 395 all require equipment to be maintained and inspected regularly by a competent person. How frequent the inspection is depends upon a number of factors such as location and usage.For example, an edge protection system installed on roof in a town centre should be inspected annually, however guardrail installed in a harsh environment such as on a coastal roof would require more frequent inspection.

Although guardrails are designed to be durable they should be inspected annually to ensure they’re performing as intended and to identify potential faults.This is particularly important when work has been carried out on or to the roof.Contractors and maintenance operators are not experts on edge protection systems and could remove a rail or connect additional equipment such as aerials to the system without realising that this can have a serious impact on the guardrail’s performance.

If a system has been installed for a number of years, additional equipment such as AC units or air vents may have been installed outside the area protected by the edge protection.  If this is has happened maintenance engineers could be working in unprotected areas


Why guardrail should be inspected annually


To Be Continued….

If you have any work at height question, please feel free to email us at [email protected]

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