Rooftop Safety

Fall Protection Systems for Rooftop Projects: An Overview

Fall Protection Systems for Rooftop Projects: An Overview

For property owners, facilities maintenance employees, specifiers or contractors, working at heights is often your day-to-day. Despite this fact, falls have been cited as the leading cause of death in construction fatalities across both the US and Canada. In a learning resource from Skyline Group, we explore why the implementation of robust fall protection systems is therefore essential, comparing some of the key features and benefits of the available options.


A quick glance at the statistics paints a sobering picture of the overall levels of safety on Canadian construction sites. An article published by The Safety Mag highlighted that in 2017 alone, the construction sector was the country’s “deadliest industry”, accounting for 217 fatalities in 2017 out of a total of 951. Notably, that same resource includes insights from the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, which states that “We have made little progress in this area for over two decades”. 

When it comes to putting an end to these sad statistics, the power lies in the hands of all of us who are part of the building community. Fortunately, commercial building owners, contractors, architects, and facilities maintenance professionals have access to a range of fall protection systems, helping them meet and surpass the minimum legal compliance standards.


Fall Protection for Rooftop Projects: Understanding Your Obligations

Before we explore the range of fall protection systems available in today’s height safety market, it is crucial to be aware of your legal obligations when it comes to protecting workers at height. On a federal level, Canada Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, SOR/86-304, Sections 12.01 to 12.09 state that an employer must provide or put in place a fall-protection system if work is to be performed in the following scenarios:

  • From a structure or on a vehicle at a height of 3 m or more;
  • From a ladder at a height of 3 m or more if, because of the nature of the work, the person performing it is unable to use at least one hand to hold onto the ladder; or
  • At a height of less than 3 m if the surface onto which the person might fall would present a greater risk of injury than a solid, flat surface.

Being aware of this legislation is essential, but it doesn’t end there. On a provincial level, you will be mandated to meet other requirements. Let’s look at Ontario as an example, where Construction Projects, O. Reg. 213/91

Sections 26 – 26.9 And Industrial Establishments, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851 Section 85 states that fall protection must be used where a worker is exposed to any of the following hazards:

  • Falling more than 3 metres;
  • Falling more than 1.2 metres, if the work area is used as a path for a wheelbarrow or similar equipment;
  • Falling into operating machinery;
  • Falling into water or another liquid;
  • Falling into or onto a hazardous substance or object; or
  • Falling through an opening on a work surface.

Before deciding on what fall arrest systems your construction site needs, it is critical to liaise with a qualified safety specialist. This is important for a number of reasons. Not only will working with a professional ensure you are meeting the minimum standards for compliance – it will ensure that you go beyond this, demonstrating that you have taken every reasonable step to protect your staff. For more information on legal requirements in your area, be sure to consult our brief list of roof fall protection regulations in Canada.

At this point, always remember one of the most important lessons we at Skyline Group have to share: compliance does not always equal safety. This was demonstrated as recently as April 2023, when General Motors was given a $325,000 fine following the death of a worker who fell from a height of only 2.86 metres – a height that was actually below the legal threshold outlined in the legislation above.


Fall Protection in Construction: The Essentials

In Canada, most jurisdictions mandate specific fall protection measures in addition to personal protective equipment. These measures include:

  • Fixed barriers such as handrails and guardrails.
  • Surface opening protection like covers and guardrails.
  • Warning barriers/control zones to alert workers to hazards.
  • Fall or travel restraint systems to prevent reaching an edge.
  • Fall containment systems like safety nets.
  • Fall arrest systems designed to safely stop a fall in progress.

As mentioned, it is important to note that your rooftop safety protocols shouldn’t represent a mere box-ticking exercise where only the above solutions are implemented. To surpass minimum standards and truly ensure safety for workers at height, more advanced fall protection systems are crucial.


Advanced Fall Protection Systems While Working at Heights

At Skyline Group, we specialize in providing top-tier fall protection solutions tailored to meet and exceed industry standards, thereby enhancing safety on construction sites. Keep reading for an overview of our advanced fall protection essentials:

1. Lifeline Roof Access LaddersTiger Cats Stadium Platform Lifeline Roof Access Ladder

Our Lifeline Roof Access Ladders represent the pinnacle of safety for vertical access needs in construction. 

These ladders are equipped with robust stainless steel cables that allow workers to securely attach themselves during both ascent and descent, significantly reducing the risk of falls. Integrating such systems is essential in ensuring workers have safe and reliable access to different heights of a construction or working site.

2. Guardrail Systems
Guardrails on rooftop with sunrise in background

Skyline’s extensive range of guardrail systems includes both non-penetrating and fixed options. 

These guardrails and safety rails are essential for creating safe perimeters around hazardous areas such as roof edges, open hatches, and skylights. By installing roof barriers, we help secure the environment for workers and maintenance teams, safeguarding them against the risk of accidental falls.

3. Warning Line Systems
Roofline bumpline

Our RoofLine system is an exemplary solution for managing access to roof edges and areas of concern.

It prevents personnel from approaching hazardous zones without the need for extensive guardrail setups, thus offering a cost-effective and efficient fall protection solution. This system is particularly beneficial in areas where direct access to the roof edge is unnecessary, yet safety from potential falls must be maintained and a means of warning the worker being the main requirement.

4. Walkway Systems
Rooftop walkway system

Engineered to provide a stable and secure path across varying roof landscapes, walkways mitigate risks by directing foot traffic away from potential dangers such as skylights, vents, roof openings and uneven surfaces.

Implementing walkways as part of a comprehensive fall protection strategy ensures that workers can move safely and efficiently, focusing on their tasks without the added risk of navigating unpredictable rooftop layouts. This approach not only aligns with safety regulations but elevates the standard of worker protection.


Creating a Culture of Safety with Continuous Learning

While implementing fall arrest systems is a pivotal step in enhancing construction safety, their efficacy significantly depends on proper usage and awareness. Ongoing training and education are indispensable to ensure that construction workers are proficient in effectively utilizing these safety measures.

At Skyline Group, we drive the importance of education through our complimentary Lunch and Learn service, which provides tailored sessions on height safety requirements and best practices. These informative sessions are designed to equip workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate construction sites safely, emphasizing proactive safety measures beyond mere compliance with regulations.


Elevated Work: Elevated Safety – Contact Us Now

Always remember: legal compliance should be seen as not the ceiling, but the floor of your safety precautions in construction sites. To go beyond compliance into true safety, get started by browsing our full selection of safety solutions or reach out to one of our experts for a site consultation.

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