Man on roof checking working at height safety systems
Written by altusadmin

Specifying the Right Safety at Height Measures for Maintenance Teams

Different commercial and public environments require routine, ad hoc or annual maintenance visits for activities that could be as diverse as clearing gutters, carrying out roof repairs or servicing roof top plant.

It’s important to take expert advice on the specific safety at height requirements for your building and maintenance regimes. By working with experienced specialists like Altus Safety, you can ensure that your installation is tailored to your building design, meets your operational requirements and is fully compliant.

We begin by carrying out a full audit for each project, which considers the locations that maintenance teams will need to access, maintenance intervals, the number of maintenance personnel and the level of safety training in place.

Equipped with this information, we can ensure we offer you the right advice your specific safety and access requirements in line with the safety at height hierarchy, offering you appropriate working at height solutions.


Safety at Height Hierarchy: What do you need to know?

The safety at height hierarchy is designed to help maximise safety and reduce risk when access is required for maintenance at height.

The lowest tiers of the hierarchy advise that working at height should be avoided where possible or that powered access equipment be used.  If this is not feasible, the next step of the hierarchy is to install a ‘collective measure’ in the form of a guardrail system, which provides edge protection to prevent falls from height for both safety trained and non-safety trained personnel.

This is by far the most commonly used form of safety at height equipment for buildings that require regular maintenance at height, providing a permanent solution. However, the type of guardrail specified can vary, depending on the needs of the building and its occupier, so it’s important to work with a specialist in edge protection to select the best solution for your maintenance requirements, building and budget.

For some buildings, installation of a guardrail system may not be possible or appropriate so the specification may need to rise up the hierarchy to a fall restraint or fall arrest system. Once again, by working with a specialist like Altus Safety, you can ensure you receive the right advice for the safest possible solution.


Collective Measures

Altus Safety provides a complete guardrail design and installation service, assessing the site-specific loading and structural parameters to ensure the guardrail is fit for purpose and meets the specific requirements of the building and the needs of the personnel who will access the roof.

Freestanding guardrails have become a popular solution as these are weighted and do need to be fixed to the roof. This not only makes them faster and easier to install, it also means that the warranty for the roofing system will not be compromised and there are no penetrations to increase the roof’s vulnerability to leaks. The absence of fixings also ensures that the guardrail requires no detailing, reducing site time for the roofing contractor.

Where a freestanding guardrail is not viable, either due to aesthetic stipulations or space restrictions, there are a number of alternative guardrail options.  A collapsible guardrail is a popular choice for buildings where the architect or end user wants to limit the visual impact of the safety protection as this can be collapsed and out of sight when not in use. A powdered-coated guardrail, which effectively camouflages the edge protection against the roof surface, is another option for a more subtle approach.

Where space is limited, a fixed guardrail may be necessary, and on very congested roofs, a parapet or clamped system offers a robust solution without encroaching on the actual roof area.

Additional guardrail protection may also be needed for roof features such as skylights, atria and lightwells, as the danger of falling through a glazed feature is just as significant as that of falling from the edge of the roof.  Here, modular guardrails can be used to create skylight protection units, creating a barrier to prevent falls.


Fall Restraint Systems

For environments where space restrictions prevent the installation of a guardrail system, or where maintenance at height will only be required at extended intervals by safety-trained personnel, it may be appropriate to install a fall restraint system instead.

This type of equipment involves tethering the maintenance operative to a fixed point on the roof at a safe distance from the edge.

As there is a greater level of risk involved, fall restraint systems and the PPE equipment used by maintenance personnel must be regularly inspected to ensure they are safety compliant and appropriate for the requirements of the building.


Fall Arrest

A fall arrest system lies at the top of the safety at height hierarchy and is designed to prevent impact from a fall from height, rather than preventing the fall itself. In most environments, this type of system should only be used as an option of last resort because space is extremely restricted or because the areas where maintenance is required have restricted access.

For fall arrest systems, alongside a requirement for regular inspection of the installation and PPE equipment, it’s vital that any member of the maintenance team using the system has been rescue trained, as well as being trained in the use of safety at height systems.  The building’s management team should also have a rescue plan in place and a rescue kit should be available on site. Due to the increased level of risk, the requirements for this type of system are very specific but Altus Safety can guide you through them.


Facades and Windows

Finally, one of the most common maintenance requirements for tall buildings is window or façade cleaning and repair. This may be carried out using a cradle suspended at roof level, alternatively, a Davit Arm fixed to the roof can be used to enable maintenance teams to abseil down the height of the building for cleaning and repairs.

Once again, Altus Safety can advise you on the correct specification for a Davit arm installation, taking into consideration the roof substrate, loading requirements and the required reach.


Ask the Experts

This general advice is no substitute to expert, site specific recommendations, so if you’re concerned about safety at height for your maintenance requirements, why not get in touch? Please don’t hesitate to contact us or call on 0330 113 0870.

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