In this Briefing Note we consider the safety requirements for routine access required for plant or premise maintenance, inspections etc.

It is critically important to make sure that access to the place of work on the roof is safe, and the risks associated with working at height have been addressed.

Falls from height remain one of the biggest cause of fatalities and major injuries in the UK, with roof accidents accounting for around 25% of these. Accessing and working on a roof can be dangerous and falls can occur either from the edges of roofs, through gaps or holes in roofs, or through fragile surfaces, skylights etc.

Is your roof safe?

To comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers, and those in control of any work at height (including facilities managers and building owners), must make sure that work is properly planned, supervised, and carried out by competent people. This is achieved by assessing the risks and applying the hierarchy of controls contained in the Regulations, which are:

  1. Avoiding working at height where possible: Some activities can be completed from the ground, e.g. using extendable tools to clean windows or using a drone to undertake roof inspections.
  2. Preventing falls: Where access to the roof is unavoidable, then arrangements must be in place to prevent falls. Passive fall prevention includes physical barriers such as guardrails or railings, which keep workers away from roof edges, fragile surfaces, or roof holes.
  3. Minimise the distance: If the above control methods cannot be applied and the risk of falls remain, you must take sufficient measures to minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall. Collective measures include safety nets or soft-landing systems e.g. air bags installed close to the level of the work. Alternatively, personal protection methods can be used e.g. fall-arrest systems using body harnesses and Latchways and anchor points.

Access to the roof should be restricted to authorised personnel only (competent maintenance contractors etc), which can be done by securing the entry points and issuing keys / codes along with a permit to work and undertaking roof access induction training. All access equipment and fall protection systems need to be inspected, serviced, and maintained as part of the routine planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedule and records maintained.

The following are examples of where fall protection is required:

  1. Roof Access / Egress: to fixed ladders and around roof access hatches.
  2. Roof Edges: working in close proximity to the edge may be required for drain clearance, leakage checks, surface inspection and maintenance to the rest of the roof or building’s façade.
  3. Roof Plant: air conditioning plant, building maintenance units (BMU’s), emergency lighting and solar panels etc. all need regular checks as per the PPM schedules.
  4. Walkways: access routes should be designated and accompanied by a fall protection system; escape routes should also be considered.
  5. Overhead Glazing, Smoke Vents and Skylights: fall protection is required for accessing these areas for cleaning and maintenance, and such areas could also be deemed fragile.

At William Martin Compliance we have a nationwide team of experts who offer a comprehensive range of health and safety compliance services to property management professionals.

For all enquiries please contact us: enquiries@wmcompliance.co.uk or call our team on 0203 819 8829

Click to download this Roof Safety – Briefing Note – Jan 2021