Rooftop Safety

Navigating Rooftop Safety: Canada’s Regulations & Best Practices

Navigating Rooftop Safety: Canada’s Regulations & Best Practices

If you’re a building manager or commercial building owner in Canada, you are tasked with navigating one of the most diverse legislative landscapes in North America. This is particularly true in the realm of rooftop safety regulations, which tend to differ greatly in terms of federal and provincial jurisdictions. In the latest learning resource from Skyline Group, we explore how key decision makers can navigate these regulations, ensuring elevated safety for workers at height.

Canada’s approach to rooftop safety regulations reflects a highly complex system shaped by the many diverse jurisdictions across the country. Thus embodies one federal, ten provincial and three territorial jurisdictions, each with its own occupational health and safety legislation.

Rooftop Safety Law in Canada

Broadly speaking, federal laws cover specific industries and sectors across the country. Meanwhile, provincial and territorial regulations tend to apply to the vast majority of workplaces that fall within their boundaries.

This represents a highly decentralized framework, meaning that while the overarching principles of worker safety and accident prevention in Canada are consistent, the specifics can differ greatly from one region to another. Understanding and navigating these differences is essential for any person responsible for the safety of workers at height—including commercial building owners, building managers, and maintenance teams.

Understanding Jurisdictional Coverage

Across Canada, occupational health & safety (OH&S) jurisdiction is determined by the nature of a workplace or application, and its industry. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Federal regulations: The Canadian federal government oversees occupational health & safety for workers in federally regulated industries, ranging from telecommunications to banking and interprovincial transportation. The Canada Labour Code Part II is the standard-setting legislation for federal employees and workplaces.
  • Provincial & territorial regulations: Where federal regulations don’t apply, elevated workplaces will fall subject to provincial and territorial regulations. These regulations outline the safety obligations for most other employment contexts, and will vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another. The vast majority of workers (approximately 94%) fall under these regulations.

This dual system requires organizations to work in full compliance with multiple sets of regulations. For detailed guidance specific to your situation, we recommend consulting with one of our safety experts. Our comprehensive resource summarizes key differences in regulations – but it is always recommended you speak with a safety specialist.

While there is a shared goal of ensuring the welfare of workers at height, the specific requirements, enforcement mechanisms and compliance strategies can differ. Here is a prime example:

  • Alberta vs Quebec: Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act emphasizes employer responsibilities for hazard assessment and control, whereas Quebec’s Act respecting occupational health and safety includes provisions for joint health and safety committees.

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS)

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is a cornerstone of Canadian occupational health legislation, and is based on the principle that everyone in the workplace shares responsibility for safety. For commercial building owners and property managers, understanding this system and its implications is essential.

This piece of legislation promotes a culture where both employers and employees are fully engaged in their approach to identifying and resolving safety concerns. This entails a proactive approach to commercial and industrial rooftop safety, including fall hazards.

  • Employers: Employers are required to provide a safe workplace, necessary training, and appropriate safety equipment. They must also establish and maintain safety protocols and emergency procedures.
  • Employees: Employees, on their part, are obliged to use the safety equipment and follow the established safety procedures. They should also report any hazards or breaches in safety protocols they observe.

By mandating a collaborative approach, the Internal Responsibility System builds on the idea that workplace safety is a shared responsibility, encouraging active participation across multiple groups of stakeholders.

Beyond Compliance: Best Practices in Rooftop Safety

Here at Skyline, we are passionate in our belief that true rooftop safety must go beyond mere regulations and compliance requirements. It is our philosophy that true safety involves a full suite of solutions that don’t just protect a worker in the event of a fall – rather, it must prevent that fall from happening in the first place.

Below, we have captured some key tips that help organizations tick both of these boxes.

  • Risk awareness: We recommend regular and thorough reviews of your rooftop area to identify safety hazards, which may include skylights, edge risks and the positioning of equipment such as HVAC units and solar panels.
  • Training and shared learning: As a property manager or commercial building owner, you should take measures to ensure all personnel accessing elevated workspaces are fully trained on safety protocols, the layout of the rooftop and any relevant emergency procedures. Our Lunch and Learn service provides the perfect starting point.
  • Guardrail systems: Where workers are using elevated spaces, engineered guardrails manufactured to code are a bare essential. Skyline recommends installing guardrails around the perimeter of the roof and around hazardous areas to prevent the risk of a fall.
  • Safe access points: It is your responsibility to ensure safe designated access points to your rooftop, such as access ladders, paver walkways, custom walkways or stairway systems.
  • Markings and signage: Make sure your rooftop is fully equipped with appropriate signage and markings. These should indicate safe pathways, restricted areas and should guide workers away from potential hazards.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): As part of your safety protocols, you should require your staff to use appropriate PPE. This can include harnesses and non-slip footwear as examples. 

Emergency preparations: Skyline recommends a clear emergency plan for rooftop incidents, including rescue and evacuation procedures and first aid protocols. As part of your emergency preparedness, you should also keep detailed records of risk assessments, training, inspections, and maintenance activities as a record of compliance and due diligence.

While the above tips are highly recommended, they shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. Instead, they should be included as part of an organization-wide effort to create a culture of safety. Our experts are here to help you do just that.

Elevated Safety: Creating a Culture of Safety

Don’t discover safety by accident. Here at Skyline, we work within your spatial, budgetary and operational requirements to ensure the highest levels of safety for workers at height. To get started, browse our full range of solutions or reach out to us to discuss your unique requirements.

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