Whether it’s for maintenance purposes or it’s a regular part of the job, some workers are required to spend time on rooftops. No matter how routine the work may be, accidents can still happen.
OSHA guidelines mandate training and appropriate safety equipment for these workers, yet despite these efforts every year, hundreds of people are injured or killed in falls from roofs. This is even more tragic when you consider that most of these falls are entirely preventable.
There are a number of fall arrest and restraint systems available commercially that can help prevent injuries and save lives.
Since every roof is different, these systems must be positioned to provide work access without compromising the persons safety. Two of the most popular varieties of fall protection systems are fixed anchor systems and counterweight systems. Each has their own merits.
It is important to carefully consider the needs of your company when deciding which system to purchase.
– What type of roof will your personnel be working on?
– What kind of work will they be performing?
– Who will be accessing the roof?
– How close to the leading edge do you need to be?
– Is the system being used for fall arrest and if that is the case is there a rescue plan in place?
Only by asking these kinds of questions and having a Competent person as defined by ANSI evaluate the application can you accurately determine which system would do the best job of protecting your workers.
Fixed Roof Anchor Systems
Fixed roof anchor systems provide protection near leading edges and openings.
As the name would indicate, these systems are actually attached to the roof. Anchors can be attached to the roof deck either by toggle bolts or clamps, which gives you options which counterweight systems do not offer.
The main advantage of these systems is that they can be utilized on almost any type of roof. Fixed roof anchors are located to provide the worker with maximum work coverage area roof under the supervision of a qualified person. Also, they are lightweight which means they can easily be moved as needed.
It’s important to remember that these systems have to be attached to the roof usually by drilling holes to install the anchors, which always comes with the risk of causing leaks or other problems. If you wish to avoid making holes in your roof, you might want to consider a counterweight anchor system.
Counterweight Anchor Systems
Counterweight anchor systems provide many of the same fall arrest features and offer the added convenience of being more portable, which allows workers to relocate them as necessary.
One of the major benefits of a counterweight anchor system is the fact that it doesn’t have to be attached which eliminates the chance of penetrating the roof and increasing the possibility of leaks. However, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind which don’t apply to fixed roof systems.
These systems are only suited for flat roofs the maximum allowed slope is five (5) degrees. They also should not be employed on rooftops that are covered with ice, snow, frost, or oil. You should make sure that the area where you are setting up the system is free of debris and water. Other than making sure the system doesn’t come into contact with moisture, oil, grease, algae and other foreign materials that can inhibit its ability to adhere to the surface properly, a counterweight anchor should work on any roofing surface.
Either of the systems when correctly applied will protect workers from falls. The only question is which is the best choice for your unique work environment. By taking some time to research your organization’s needs and the advantages of each system and working with a qualified fall protection expert, you can make a decision that provides your workers with the highest level of safety and productivity.
After you select the proper anchor for your application the next step would be to pick the compatible lanyard or self-retracting lifeline, making sure that the users are properly trained and never forget to have a rescue plan in place.
By Peter Kavia
CAI Safety Systems
Peter has been a safety expert for almost 20 years and is certified as a Qualified Fall Protection expert. He currently holds the title of Director of Operations for CAI Safety Systems, a custom turnkey fall protection company in Southern California.