Roof Fall Prevention & Safety

Roof Fall Prevention & Safety

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

md_0DpQEte3Aj-300x300Fixed 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

DSF7284Counterweight 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.

Peter KaviaBy 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.

No other part of a building absorbs more punishment than the roof. Whether it’s the snow that accumulates in the winter or the rain and hail that pounds away on it during the spring and summer, a roof gets no relief from the elements. This makes it more susceptible to failure.

The best way to avoid issues is to have the roof inspected on a regular basis and perform preventative maintenance when necessary. The only way to do a thorough inspection is by having a trained employee or hired professional check for wet spots, signs of damage or aging material that could possibly fail.

Anytime someone climbs onto a commercial roof there is the potential for injury or even death. Professionals and employees who following proper safety measures and employ the right safety equipment can not only help prevent falls, it can make inspections and repairs less time consuming and more affordable in the long run.

Here are three roof safety maintenance tips to remember.

Safety Equipment

Roof Fall Protection SystemsThere is a great deal of commercially available safety equipment designed to prevent or mitigate falls. Not all of it may be necessary for your particular situation, but some of these devices are well suited to protecting staff during routine roof inspections and maintenance. There are two types of basic fall protection systems to consider an active system that requires a tie-off anchor, anchor on the roof or a passive system such as a guardrail.

Guardrails can help a fall from occurring unlike an active system which may stop a fall in progress but has a greater potential for injury. Two of the most common types of guardrails are non-penetrating guardrails and fixed based guardrails. Non-penetrating guardrails aren’t secured which eliminates the need to make holes in the roof and engineering. They are easily installed and fit the contour of any roof. Fixed based guardrails are attached to the roof by brackets. These guardrails typically don’t require any on-site fabrication and can be fixed to the side or surface of the roof. Both types of guardrails are available in a variety materials such as steel and aluminum.

Follow Procedures

It is important that everyone in your organization knows whom is and isn’t allowed access to the roof. It is better if only a limited number of people share this responsibility. Keep track of the keys that are issued to these individuals and stress that they are never to be given to anyone with authorization to be on the roof.

Safety procedures should be clearly established and adhered to with no exceptions. Even outside contractors and vendors should be bound by the same procedures that your staff is required to follow.


Training should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure procedures are up to date and fresh in the minds of employees who will be conducting inspections and performing maintenance. They should understand how all of the safety equipment functions. The layout of the roof should familiar to them to ensure they don’t encounter any unexpected hazards in the course of roof inspections and maintenance. A one-time training will not sufficient to prepare your people for all of the situations they may encounter.

OSHA became law on December 29, 1970, under President Nixon. OSHA enacted laws and standards to protect the safety of men and women in the workplace. In addition to making sure working conditions are acceptable, they also provide training, assistance, outreach and education. This helps to ensure all employers and employees have the tools to be safe while on the job.

Their main goal is to reduce workplace hazards with training and systems, such as the fall arrest system. This is because, prior to OSHA, there was no authority watching over workplace safety. This meant that a lot of people worked in deplorable conditions. Many, many workers were also injured or killed by the lack of rules for safety, or the requirements of safety systems.

With the economy booming, and industrial jobs becoming bigger and better, there was no better time for OSHA to step in and make changes. They oversee all industries in all parts of the United States. No matter where a person works, at least some sort of OSHA signage exists, listing employee rights and employer requirements.

Employers are required to follow the rules that OSHA set forth, or be forced to pay a fine, or worse. Like with the above fall arrest system example, employers in industrial settings must have systems set in place to promote safety. Fall safety, fire safety, and chemical spill safety equipment should be ready and on standby for employees who need it. The employees are not responsible for maintaining the equipment, as it is the employer’s job to make sure it is in functioning order.