There are many different methods of edge protection, from guardrails and demarcation systems to man anchors and temporary roof rails.
One recent HSE case demonstrates the importance of making sure, whatever you choose, there is no exposed gap left between the roof edge and the edge protection itself.
In the incident, a 63-year-old roofer was working on Micklegate Methodist Church using edge protection provided by a third-party scaffolding firm; however, the freestanding guardrails did not closely follow the profile of the roof, leaving a gap through which the victim fell.
He died from his injuries and, three years after the incident itself, the scaffolding provider was fined £15,000 with 200 hours of unpaid work.
Sarah Lee, HSE inspector on the case, said: “This was an entirely preventable death. In this case the scaffolding edge protection was not sufficient to prevent a person falling from the roof.”
The case highlights the value of permanent roof rails, particularly on very tall buildings like some churches, or where the shape of the roof edge would make it difficult to erect temporary guardrails with no gaps.
Where the building itself places particular demands on the edge protection to be used – for instance because it has listed status or some other special significance, as is the case with many churches – there are still permanent and semi-permanent roof rails that can protect maintenance workers without permanent visible impact.
For instance, EVOrail Collapsible Guardrails remain in place permanently, but fold flat against the roof surface when not in use, so there is no visible impact from ground level.
Demarcation systems can be an even easier way to indicate a safe route from the roof access to the location where work is to be carried out, as the HSE requires you to do.
Man anchors work differently, securing workers to a central tether rather than adding a barrier to the roof edge – as such, they can be used in the very rare occasions where edge protection is simply impossible, or as an extra layer of protection if certain parts of the roof edge cannot be made totally secure.