Rooftop Safety

Ensuring Roof Railing Compliance on Canadian Commercial Buildings

Ensuring Roof Railing Compliance on Canadian Commercial Buildings

Ensuring roof railing compliance on Canadian commercial buildings isn’t just ‘best practice’ – it is a legal and moral requirement that you face as a building manager or commercial property owner. This is particularly true in the case of rooftop railing systems – including guardrails and bumplines – which provide crucial lines of defence against falls from height.

For many of our customers, the key challenge in this area is in both understanding and applying safety codes which differ significantly from province to province. Indeed, while these regulations vary, it is generally understood that adherence to Canadian Occupational Health & Safety Regulations and the National Building Code of Canada is essential. We’ll delve more into this subject later in this learning resource.

Rooftop Railing Compliance: Protecting People, Protecting Companies

Lady Justice and gavel with law book and Canada flag in background

Your responsibilities extend far beyond ticking a compliance box. Aside from making the right investments to protect contractors and maintenance teams using your elevated workspace, your responsibility must also be to protect your company, both from a perspective of legal compliance and maintaining the integrity of your brand.

Let’s illustrate this point by looking at an example of a company in Ontario, who received a hefty fine of $110,000 after a worker was fatally injured from a fall in the workplace, with an added 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. This case underlines not just the financial repercussions of failing to meet safety standards, but also the profound impact on worker safety and well-being. Aside from these points, it highlights the consequences such incidents can have in terms of the safety reputation of a company.

Understanding Provincial Variations in Safety Codes

As previously mentioned, when reviewing safety requirements a building manager or commercial property owner will be largely impacted by where the property is located within Canada. There can also be some subtle differences depending on where the property is located within the province as well, for example requirements or even preferences can differ from Montreal to Quebec City. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is crucial to be aware of occupational health and safety laws that require action when a worker has the potential to fall from about 3 meters (10ft) in height. 

In the vast majority of cases, fall protection is required when:

  • Other means of fall protection are not available or possible, such as guardrails;
  • Working at a height of 3 metres or more (permanent and/or temporary work areas);
  • Working at a height of less than 3 metres when the surface below could cause a greater injury than just the fall (e.g., machinery; risk of drowning in water or other liquid; open tanks, vats, or pits containing hazardous materials; materials that can shift);
  • A worker may fall through an opening in the work surface; or
  • It is determined that fall protection is necessary

It is important to note that while fall protection is vital, if a means of preventing access to the hazard isn’t possible, we need to find a solution. This is why safety regulations may require primarily a guardrail in place, then if no other option is available personal protective equipment (such as a lanyard) may be considered. Both these solutions, lanyards and guardrails, are a form of fall protection, although a lanyard is considered to be reactive versus a guardrail being proactive.

Our Hierarchy of Safety article discusses this in greater detail, explaining each level of safety. While the information above reflects some common principles, you can expect your safety code to be unique to your province. To highlight some of these differences that exist we included an example below. Please note that there are many facets and exceptions to take into consideration when reviewing provincial-based roof safety codes. As a result, we only included a small insert from the corresponding provincial code, this is to demonstrate how working on projects across Canada can indeed become a challenge when understanding safety requirements in order to design a safe solution.

  • Saskatchewan: 

Code: The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020 – Chapter S-15.1 Reg 10

Control zone 9‐4 

(1) An employer or contractor shall ensure that a control zone:

         (a) is only used if a worker can fall from a level surface in a work area; and

         (b) is not less than 2 metres wide when measured from the unguarded edge.

(2) When crossing a control zone mentioned in subsection (1), a worker:

         (a) subject to subsection (4), is not required to use a fall protection system,

         other than the control zone, to enter or leave the work area; and

         (b) shall follow the most direct route to get to or from the unguarded edge.

(3) An employer or contractor shall ensure that a control zone is clearly marked with an effective raised warning line or other equally effective method if a worker is working more than 2 metres from an unguarded edge.

(4) An employer or contractor shall ensure that a worker who has to work within

    a control zone uses:

         (a) a travel restraint system; or

         (b) a means that is as equally effective as a travel restraint system and that

         prevents the worker from getting to the unguarded edge.

The above information is an extract from Saskatchewan’s Occupation Health and Safety requirements.

  • Quebec: 

Code: Chapter S-2.1, r. 13 Regulation respecting occupational health and safety

354.1. Characteristics of a warning line: A warning line must be

  1. continuous and installed on all sides of the work area that it delimits;
  2. placed at a distance of 2 m or more from any place where a worker may fall from a height;
  3. made of a rigid strip, a cable or a chain able to withstand a tractive force of at least 2,22 kN;
  4. equipped with flags made of high-visibility materials and placed at intervals of not more than 2 m;
  5. capable of withstanding a load of 100 N applied horizontally at the line’s highest point or vertically at its midpoint between 2 stanchions;
  6. completed at each access point, storage area or hoisting area by a path formed by 2 parallel lines not exceeding 3 m in length. In places where the access path starts at a roof edge, a guardrail must be installed on the side of the roof, in compliance with section 33.3, so as to cover the first 3 m on either side of the access path’s starting point; and
  7. installed so that the line is
    1. located between 0,7 m above the work surface at the line’s lowest point and 1,2 m above that surface at its highest point;
    2. supported by stanchions placed at intervals of not more than 2,5 m; and
    3. attached to each stanchion so that pushing on the line between 2 stanchions does not reduce the height of the line between adjacent stanchions by an equivalent amount.

The above information is an extract from Quebec’s Occupational Health and Safety requirements.

Both codes refer to warning lines, and both comply with federal standards yet Saskatchewan focuses on the line’s application, while Quebec includes very strict design guidelines for the product itself. This means all Quebec-compliant bumplines will be acceptable in Saskatchewan, but very rarely would the opposite be true. On the other hand, due to these restrictions, a bumpline designed for Quebec would not be competitively priced when compared to a solution designed for Saskatchewan.

Despite all of the information out there, the challenge remains in terms of translating these regulations and applying them to your elevated workspace. That’s why we recommend reaching out to one of our experienced height safety experts, who provide the knowledge, expertise and experience to ensure your rooftop goes beyond compliance, ensuring total safety for workers at height.

Beyond Compliance: An Overview of Our Guardrail Safety Solutions

Guardrails are an essential solution for ensuring roof railing compliance on Canadian commercial buildings. Depending on your requirements, the solutions below can help you take your first steps beyond compliance into safety for workers at height.

Non-Penetrating Roof Safety Guardrails

Products Gardcheck-RoofBarrier 5001 SERIES

The RoofBarrier series features a non-penetrating, self-ballasted guardrail system that comes in pre-assembled modular components for easy onsite assembly. This design eliminates the need for roof membrane penetration during installation, offering significant time and cost savings. Additionally, it avoids the need for any post-installation modifications to the roof membrane, such as resealing the holes made by a penetrating solution. Streamlining the process while ensuring robust rooftop safety.

Fixed Roof Safety Guardrails

Fixed Aluminum Bottom Mount Railing

The fixed roof safety guardrail system arrives in pre-assembled modular components for straightforward on-site assembly. Designed for versatility, it can be securely mounted to either concrete or steel parapets, with options for side or top mounting, streamlining the installation process while providing long-lasting safety solutions for elevated work areas.

Bumplines & Warning Line Systems

RoofLine Series

The RoofLine system offers a practical solution for situations requiring roof access without direct proximity to the roof edge. It serves as a safety line, preventing workers from approaching areas where falls could occur. This approach not only enhances safety by keeping personnel away from hazardous zones but also minimizes the need for guardrail systems, presenting a cost-effective alternative for managing rooftop safety.

Roof Hatch Guardrails


This modular hatch guardrail system, available in both non-penetrating or fixed, encircles the hatch to provide a secure entry and exit point for personnel accessing the roof via the hatch access ladder. Coupled with a door, it allows the roof hatch to stay open for easy use by roof workers and subcontractors, ensuring safety without impeding workflow.


Discover Skyline – Elevated Work. Elevated Safety.™ 

Don’t discover safety by accident. Work with Skyline Group today and go beyond compliance to achieve true rooftop safety. To get started, browse our full range of rooftop safety solutions. Alternatively, contact us to organize an On-Site Safety Consultation. 

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