Carrying out maintenance on roofs or accessing rooftop areas is often unavoidable, and it's crucial to mitigate the risks to both staff and the public whenever possible.
In 2021/2022, falls from height accounted for a quarter of work-related accident fatalities and were the leading cause of life-changing injuries, primarily affecting construction workers. For this reason, it is highly important to establish a system that ensures the safety of employees and the public when performing tasks on rooftops, not only to prevent accidents but also to comply with UK laws and avoid litigation.
When working at height, two classes of protection are required by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); Collective Fall Protection and Personal Fall Protection.
HSE recommends prioritising Collective Fall Protection over personal protection for several reasons, which we will outline in this article.
First, let's explain the working at height measures:
Collective Fall Protection:
This type of protection is designed to safeguard more than one person at height. A widely used method of collective fall protection involves the installation of a permanent or temporary barrier along the roof's edge. This barrier extends across the entire roof perimeter, eliminating any gaps and reduces falls from height for all employees collectively. This form of Collective Fall Protection is also referred to as Roof Edge Guardrail Protection. Various systems can be installed, depending on the building scenario and system application.
Both Freestanding and Fixed roof guardrails are classified as collective fall protection by HSE and take precedence over Personal Protection and Fall Arrest Systems.
Freestanding Roof Edge Guardrail: A Collective Fall system which does not require any penetration into the roof surface, such as through fixing or drilling into the membrane. This roof edge protection is primarily designed for installation on flat rooftops and is held in place by the counterweights provided. This means the guardrail can be installed without the need for bolting down onto the roof, making it easy to remove or rearrange as needed and reduces the risk of damage or leaks to the roof.
Fixed Roof Guardrail: Intended for permanent installation, fixed roof edge guardrail is installed on metal-clad roofs or similar suitable roof structures. Fixed guardrail is affixed to the roof surface through pre-drilled base-plated posts, typically using self-tapping screws or rivets (depending on roof material and structure).
Personal Fall Protection:
Personal fall protection systems are designed to protect an individual when working at height, either through restraint or fall arrest. Personal fall protection is the minimum requirement set by HSE and should only be used if it is not feasible to eliminate the hazards or install collective fall protection. Two types of Personal Fall Protection exist: Work Restraint systems and Fall Arrest Systems.
Work Restraint systems: These systems aim to prevent falls by restraining individuals at height from reaching the rooftop edge, often using an anchorage or wire line system.
Fall Arrest Systems: These systems are designed to halt falls from roofs using the distance between the roof and ground, alongside a means of force, such as a body harness and rope pull system.
In simple terms, Collective Fall Protection safeguards everyone on the roof collectively, whereas Personal Fall Protection protects only the individual on the rooftop.
Both fall protection measures are suitable when working at height. However, according to HSE's guide to working at height, companies should "always consider measures that protect everyone at risk collective protection before measures that protect only the individual personal protection."
The benefits of Collective Fall Protection and why HSE highly recommends it over Personal Fall Protection:
The installation of Collective Fall Protection offers safe and easy access to rooftops for tasks such as maintenance, site surveys and emergency exit routes.
- It does not require working at height training before employees or public can access rooftops.
- It protects all individuals on rooftops rather than just one.
- It offers inherently less risks than personal fall protection and arrest systems.
- It does not require frequent inspection and signing off and has a minimum service life of 25 years.
- It is the preferred method of fall prevention suggested by HSE.
In stark contrast, Personal Fall Protection requires users to undergo annual working at height training along with frequent documented inspections of harnesses, lanyards and anchor points etc. Individuals without working at height health and safety training should be denied access to the roof where there is no collective fall protection present.
Only a select few with working at height and personal fall protection equipment training will be able to access the roof at any given time, possibly resulting in multiple project delays and placing limitations on companies and employee resources and labour.
As well as this, unauthorised access may lead to serious consequences for the company and individuals, including life-threatening injuries or fatalities where no collective fall protection is present.
Consequences of Ignoring HSE Advice:
In 2020, a 17-year-old employee of the Cheltenham-based Mark Holland Group was engaged in construction work near Gloucester Docks. Suddenly while carrying out tasks he fell three meters through a rooflight, resulting in multiple injuries. After two operations, medical professionals advised him that he would be unable to work in construction again.
This avoidable accident resulted in HSE conducting a thorough investigation. HSE discovered that "the inexperienced young employee was not properly supervised and was unaware of the risks on site." The company had failed to provide physical barriers to prevent workers from accessing the flat roof and did not ensure proper planning for work at height.
Despite the incident, Mark Holland Group continued to neglect proper planning for working at height, with HSE identifying multiple failings during subsequent site visits. Because of the accident, Mark Holland Group Limited was fined over £50,000, and the employee's health was permanently damaged, adversely affecting the company's reputation with their clients and employees.
At Lockinex, we believe in providing suitable safety solutions to address these issues and fully comply with regulations.
As one of the first UK suppliers to offer collective fall protection which meets the new safety standards set out by British Standards Institute, our collective fall protection is designed by us for easy installation and use within working at height environments.
At Lockinex we offer 2 main types of collective fall protection.
We have been supplying collective fall protection and other working at height systems such as our Access Ladders for decades to roofing contractors, facilities management teams and Height safety specialists across the UK.
We take pride in being the foremost standard for safety solutions within the UK, with a specialisation in working at height systems to offer our customers a perfectly executed solution for fall protection.
Our outstanding lead times reflect our commitment to providing our customers with the most seamless solutions for their projects.
At Lockinex we have safety experts readily available to assist with any inquiries you may have and guide you in selecting the most suitable products and services for your projects.
With next-day delivery as standard, why not contact one of our leading experts today?
Interested in learning more about our Collective Fall Protection?
Get in touch with our specialists and a member of our team will personally send you our detailed technical information where you can find out more about the freestanding & fixed roof edge guardrail we offer all over the UK.