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Working on a flat roof

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QUESTION: 

What are the rules and regulations concerning work at height on flat roofs? When are handrails or other safety devices mandatory?

ANSWER:

The same principle applies to any work at height situation and is governed by the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

In summary, if there is a risk of a person falling any distance in which that person may injure themselves or another person, (which could be as a result of an object falling and striking them from height), then appropriate measures, as determined by the undertaking of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, must be taken.

In this way you will eliminate or reduce to as low as is reasonably practicable the chance of such an accident occurring.

The Regulations revolve around Regulation 4 (avoidance of risks from work at height|) and offer a series of schedules to follow when certain work access equipment is needed to provide temporary access or a working platform to undertake the work.

The Regulations can be found on this link http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20050735.htm

In relation to the requirement for handrails and other safety devices when working on a flat roof, your risk assessment should justify your safe method of work and the circumstances under which you work.

If the roof has a parapet around that prevent a person falling over (a reasonable height guide would be as for guardrails as set out in schedule 2 para 3 as this applies to construction work) and perhaps has access via a permanent staircase, then this would be considered a safe place of work and would not require extra handrails.

However, if there was no permanent access, you would need to provide a safe means of access to get onto the roof. Again assess the risks in order to derive at the best equipment to minimise the risk of a fall, such as, for example, erecting a tower scaffold.

In this situation there may not be a parapet of suitable height or no parapet at all, in which case temporary guardrails may need to be erected. The need is greatest if you are required to work near the edge.

If work is confined to an area away from the edge, then perhaps guard rails only around the specific work area would be required.

Wearing of a work restraint harness, securely anchored to a safety eyebolt,  is another possibility. Here, the length of lanyard prevents the worker from reaching the edge and thus prevents the worker from being in a position to fall .

The individual site specific circumstances will dictate what is necessary. It is your responsibility as an employer to carry out your risk assessment to determine what will constitute your safe method of work.

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