Rooftop Safety

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.

Understanding Different Types of Commercial Roofing Materials

Understanding different types of commercial roofing materials can be a challenging endeavour. However, taking the time to fully appreciate the differences between them can help building managers and commercial building owners make an informed decision – not only on cost and ease of installation, but also on the levels of safety they provide. In the latest learning resource from Skyline, we help you make an informed decision.

An Introduction to Commercial Roofing Materials

As an architect, building manager or property owner, your choice of roofing material could be one of the most important commercial building decisions you’ll make. The decision will depend on a number of factors, with a huge range of choices engineered according to where you are located within Canada.

With all of the choices out there, it is important to understand each material’s unique characteristics, advantages and limitations. However, before you address these points, it is crucial that you ask yourself the following questions…

  1. How do different roofing materials impact your building’s energy efficiency?
  2. How should climate and building usage influence your choice of roofing material?
  3. How could my choice of building materials impact maintenance operations and costs over time?
  4. Will my decision allow my building to qualify as a sustainable building?

These are just some of the many questions you should consider before making a large purchasing decision. Next, check out our overview of the most common commercial roofing materials, which can help you answer these important questions.

An Overview of Commercial Roofing Materials

While the market continues to innovate with new commercial roofing materials, we typically deal with clients who are using one of the following top 5 options: Built-Up Roofing, Single-Ply Membrane Roofing, Modified Bitumen Roofing, Metal Roofing and Green Roofing. Let’s look at those in a little more detail.

1. Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-Up Roofing, commonly referred to as BUR, is perhaps the most common kind of roofing material we see in our day-to-day work. Also known as ‘tar and gravel’ roofing, this comprises multiple layers of asphalt-saturated felts. These layers alternate with bitumen and are covered with mineral or gravel granules. Here are some of the reasons that make this option so popular:

  • Impressive durability compared to other materials
  • Strong waterproofing properties
  • Enhanced grip for improved worker safety
  • Strong ability to withstand high levels of foot traffic

This material is most commonly used in flat roofing or low-slope protection, and also provides strong protection against general weathering and UV radiation.

2. Metal Roofing

In the vast majority of cases, metal roofing systems are simply standing seam metal roofs or metal panels. Naturally, metal is a primary choice where durability, longevity and aesthetic appeal are priorities. Aside from that, this commercial roofing material opens up a world of choice, particularly in the range of finishes available including copper, aluminum and steel. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of metal roofing:
 
  • Low maintenance requirements compared to alternative materials
  • Coated finishes can improve overall durability and energy efficiency 
  • A recyclable option, adding to the green credentials of a building 
  • Strong fire, wind and hail resistance, improving general levels of structural safety
Highly popular in both steep-slope and low-slope applications, this is a top choice for the aesthetic and sustainability benefits it offers.

 

3. Single-Ply Membrane Roofing 

Lightweight, flexible and easy to install, single-ply membrane roofing is among the most popular and safest options available on today’s market. Under this category are three key types:

  • TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin)
  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer)

While TPO and PVC membranes must be heat-welded or adhered to the surface of your commercial roof, EPDM membranes can be easily installed using mechanical fasteners or an adhesive. Flexible, weather resistant and offering superb UV protection, EPDM in particular can provide a safer installation process, given that no heat-welding is required.

4. Green Roofing

Green roofing has emerged as one of the biggest roofing trends of the decade, and with the range of benefits this commercial roofing material offers, it’s not hard to see why. Stormwater management, energy efficiency, aesthetics – the benefits are endless when considering a green roof solution. Here are some of the key advantages:
 
  • Strong aesthetic appeal
  • Provision of habitats for local wildlife
  • Potential green tax incentives
  • Building efficiency & energy savings
Whilst there are many benefits, green roofing does come with its caveats, particularly around safety. Due to their vegetative nature, these systems demand a highly specialized design, with proper routine maintenance, drainage and irrigation to ensure the safety of workers at height and the integrity of the building as a whole. 
 

5. Modified Bitumen Roofing

Asphalt-based, modified bitumen waterproofing utilizes modifiers such as APP (atactic polypropylene) or SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene) in order to improve weather resistance, flexibility and durability. 

As with green roofing, this particular choice of roofing material does come with added safety concerns, primarily due to the fact that torching or hot asphalt is used during installation.

The Significance of Choosing the Right Roofing Material

Your choice of roofing material shouldn’t depend on aesthetics alone. As a building manager or commercial building owner, it is important that your decision also takes into consideration worker safety, as well as your business’s bottom line. Below we have outlined some of the key concerns you should consider for improved worker safety:

  • Safe passage: Slips, trips and falls are among the most common workplace accidents in Canada. When deciding on a material, consider how maintenance teams and workers at height can journey across your rooftop safely. The level of grip on the roofing material and slip protection are crucial to bear in mind.
  • Installation processes: If you’re using your own team to install a roofing material, always consider how that job can be done safely. Where hot works are required, ensure that your staff are adequately trained and prepared.
  • Durability: Over the years, we’ve seen many safety incidents that have arised due to wear and tear – falling structures, weak structures and more can lead to potentially fatal falls. When deciding on a material, be sure to make durability a priority.
  • Design: Simply adjusting the design and layout of the rooftop can help in reducing the chance of injury. For example, placing HVAC units away from the edge of the roof will make a safer maintenance process. A high parapet wall can also act as a safety guardrail, creating a perimeter while on the rooftop. But this can also make it challenging to remove snow during the winter months.
  • Non-Penetrating: If you are looking to install a safety solution like a guardrail or crossover stepladder, with a new roof membrane do you opt for a non-penetrating solution? This will ensure compliance and safety, while also keeping your new rooftop intact, and free from potential leaks when compared to a penetrating solution. OR are you opting for a steel roof, resulting in the requirement of a clamping-based solution in order to create a levelled walkway system.

Making an Informed Decision

When it comes to making an informed decision about creating a safe, and secure environment on your new commercial or industrial rooftop, don’t fall victim to guessing. Only by consulting with a qualified roofing and safety expert can you be sure that your decision has been made with all due considerations. With that in mind, our safety experts are on standby to share their experiences and expertise.

Elevated Work. Elevated Safety.

Here at Skyline, we use decades of experience to protect people, companies and brands. For further advice on improving the levels of safety in your elevated work area, reach out to one of our safety experts. Alternatively, browse our full selection of rooftop safety solutions.

SaskPower’s Rooftop Safety Journey: A Case Study

The Challenge

Facility teams worked within 6 feet of a 10-foot or greater drop, facing significant fall hazards in their day to day work.

The Solution

A personalized package including walkway with an integrated guardrail system and a cage ladder to access the various sections of the rooftop, ensuring work area.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Established in 1929, SaskPower is Saskatchewan’s leading power supplier. They support Saskatchewan’s growth and work to enhance the quality of life for over half a million customers. They generate power using a variety of sources and operate one of Canada’s largest grids while also being connected to the grids in Manitoba, Alberta and North Dakota.

SaskPower operates on corporate values of safety, openness, collaboration and accountability. With safety being part of the organization’s DNA, ensuring employees think ‘safety first’ when completing a task is a must. Whether you’re maintaining the grid or maintaining rooftop units, safety is uncompromisable.

ELEVATED WORK: THE CHALLENGES

Having a clear understanding of where access to the roof is located is a critical component in roof edge awareness. You want to know prior to walking onto the roof if you will encounter any hazards, such as the edge of the rooftop being to your side once stepping on the roof.

Now that you know what the environment is like around the access points, how about the points of interest? Knowing where the critical points of interest are on the rooftop, like HVAC systems or solar panels, is vital. As a facility maintenance manager or building owner you want to ensure you have a safe way to navigate from the several roof access points to these points of interest. Ultimately, enabling you to apply fall protection measures and solutions to areas where there is a risk of a trip and/or fall.

For SaskPower, safety will always be paramount. Their team understood that at any time they were working within 6 feet of a 10-foot or greater drop, they were faced with a fall hazard. When reviewing the layout of the roof it was clear that a safety plan would be required to ensure a safe means of navigating the rooftop.

ELEVATED SAFETY: OUR SOLUTIONS

In partnership with the roofing contractor and SaskPower, our team of safety specialists designed a solution that includes a walkway with an integrated guardrail system and a cage ladder to access the various sections of the rooftop. The combination of these systems created a solution that ensured safe access and a safe working environment while on the rooftop.

The non-penetrating aluminum walkway system ensured a means of having secure footing while navigating the rooftop, with the integrated guardrail system creating an enclosed barrier. This barrier not only serves as a means of increasing stability while walking, but also creates an enclosure ensuring a guided pathway. With a number of rooftop units, the walkway system was designed to ensure safe travels when close to the edge of the roof. It also allowed easier and quicker access to certain sections of the roof.

The rugged and grippy surface ensured secure footing year-round. Allowing for the snow to melt with ease through the grates. Being a lightweight modular aluminum system, installing the system on-site was easier and quicker than a welded steel solution. Being a non-penetrating system, using self-ballasted base plates provided further cost savings as repairs to the roof weren’t needed.

While on the roof there was a requirement to access elevated parts of the rooftop for maintenance purposes. When designing such a fixed access ladder, it is critical to design it in a manner where if a fall were to occur it would be controlled and away from the edge of the roof. Ultimately, preventing a secondary fall from the main rooftop. Cage ladders were specified and installed to increase safety while ascending and descending from the elevated space.

The lightweight aluminum modular ladders made it easy to transport and customize on-site while offering the user increased safety with the cage attachment and grippy rungs.

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THE TRUSTED CHOICE: PROJECT OUTCOMES

Our expertise and inventory of solutions combined to facilitate the highest levels of safety for SaskPower. A holistic approach establish a secure and reliable network environment on a rooftop that otherwise presented a number of fall and other safety hazards to facilities and maintenance teams.

Through the implementation of a walkway with an integrated walkway system, caged ladders underpinned by a gripped surface, workers at height could access and traverse the roof in a way that was both safe and efficient.

These successful outcomes were all delivered within a quick installation window, significantly reducing labor and transport costs. The result? A cost-effective, functional and durable rooftop that puts safety first.

A Roof Crossover Closes The Gap Between Two Flat Roof Buildings

The Challenge

Accessing adjacent rooftops for maintenance became time-consuming as personnel were required to climb up two roof access ladders to review both rooftops.

The Solution

After a virtual review of the flat roof, Skyline Group recommended a customized crossover system to close the gap between the two rooftops.

A Roof Crossover Closes The Gap Between Two Flat Roof Buildings

It is not uncommon to find two separate buildings, adjacent to one another separated by a few feet, and owned by the same company. Sometimes we don’t have the opportunity to grow our building footprint on the current land we own, but instead purchase the adjacent building to allow for further growth. This gap in building elevations can also occur when your flat roof has various elevations, creating a fall hazard from each rooftop.

Commercial Flat Rooftops

This telecommunications company has two offices adjacent to one another in Saskatchewan. Accessing both rooftops for maintenance became time-consuming as personnel were required to climb up via the Skyline roof access ladder to review one of the rooftops. While descending and climbing the adjacent rooftop for further maintenance. The company recognized that joining the two roof levels with a stair and walkway would provide a quicker and safer means of accessing both roofs. This would ultimately reduce time and related labour costs when looking to maintain the rooftops

skylight safety
skylight safety

Rooftop Crossover & Bridge System

After a virtual review of the flat roof, Skyline Group recommended a customized crossover system to close the gap between the two rooftops. The system would include a welded aluminum walkway with aluminum guardrails to ensure a safe and compliant roof walkway, while including a toe board to reduce the risk of a tool falling from the roof.

Why a Penetrating Crossover & Bridge System

Both penetrating and non-penetrating crossover systems will keep roof workers safe while travelling from one rooftop to the next. And are considered compliant with all height safety standards. Our modular aluminum fixed crossover solution was the preferred choice, due to the following:

  • The flexible design of the supports allows for multiple options when mounting to the roof. Due to the large span, this crossover was fixed to raised curbs for added strength and durability.
  • Its lightweight modular design brought various advantages, such as;
    • Easy and quick installation (no welding required on-site).
    • Pre-set railing and rung heights to ensure safety compliance during installation.
    • When compared to a welded solution, this system was flat-packed and easy to transport to the rooftop.
    • Its design allowed for flexibility, integrating a toe board for increased safety.
  • Its aluminum construction is non-corrosive, ensuring extended longevity and very little maintenance.
  • The aluminum grated walkway created a grippy surface year-round, minimizing the build-up of snow, ice, and debris.
  • No painting or galvanizing is required for an aluminum solution, resulting in a shorter lead time and minimal required maintenance.
  • The lightweight aluminum structure required less time to transport and install on-site, reducing the overall cost of the project.

“Once we received the bridge we installed per the design. During the final review the client was impressed at the design and the installation”

Roofing Contractor

Rooftop Safety Trends – Raising the Bar on Rooftop Safety Compliance

Canadian Roofing Contractors Association interviewed Vernon Ghinn, our VP of roof safety specialists, to chat about the future of height safety and its impact on regulations.

Here is a list of ROOFTOP SAFETY TRENDS

BUILDING DESIGN

The building design process includes many considerations for serving the occupants working or living within it. And often, the technology required to optimize the building’s safety, comfort, and efficiency end up being installed on the roof. These components may be necessary, but any piece of equipment added to the rooftop poses a degree of risk for those who may need to work in that space. And with rooftop footprints and configurations in constant flux, safety considerations cannot fall through the cracks.

“Like every building component, roof footprint, features, and conditions can evolve; these changes can introduce challenges with accessing equipment,” says Vernon Ghinn, a roof access and safety specialist at Skyline Group. “That’s why rooftop safety isn’t a set it and forget it responsibility; it is something that should be reviewed and improved upon quarterly to ensure you’re staying in compliance and keeping everyone safe.”

EVOLVING Roof HAZARDS

Working at height comes with numerous risks. More and more, those risks include having to navigate access points (e.g., ladders or hatches) or rooftop equipment (e.g., HVAC systems, ducts, solar panels) that have been installed throughout the roof and – more frequently – near roof edges.

For example, says Ghinn, “At times, rooftop units are installed at the edge because that happens to be the quickest and easiest location for the installers to place the unit. However, the challenge lies in servicing those units, as a safety solution will be required to create a safe perimeter and working environment.”

Roofing layouts can also pose risks. For instance, flat industrial and commercial roofs can become slippery to walk on when wet depending on the roofing membrane.
Added to these traditional hazards are the ones that appear over time. For example, building upgrades that affect the roof structure and design can also impact its elevations, requiring new roof safety equipment and considerations.

“That’s why it is important to understand the future state of your roof and how the roof is being accessed,” says another safety rep with Skyline. “Corridors are provided inside the building for safe access, so the same consideration should be given to the safety personnel required to keep the building running while accessing the roof.”

Another trend impacting roof safety is that rooftops are becoming more crowded. As land prices rise and available space in populated areas decreases, organizations optimize their investment by making use of their open space. Some of that focus is being turned to rooftops, where building operators turn their rooftop into a publicly accessed area (e.g., a garden or patio) or invest in energy-efficient technologies (e.g., green roofs or solar panels). The result is a very busy environment that requires safer access to all roof areas and increased awareness of common rooftop safety hazards.

“Ultimately, it is important that your roof access and safety solutions stay up to speed with your roof as it goes through different transformations,” adds a Skyline rep.

Roof Guardrail

STAYING COMPLIANT AMIDST REGULATION CHANGES

As building envelopes adapt, so do safety compliance obligations. This is also true of roof and height safety standards, which are constantly adapting to reflect emerging hazards.

“The number of roof fall-related injuries is alarming, so it’s only natural that local and national standards are getting stricter,” says the Skyline safety rep, explaining, “Today, more and more third-party service providers have their own safety guidelines that prevent employees from working on roofs unless the right safety equipment and protocols are in place.”

Aligning with such standards is a critical challenge, especially since failing to keep a building compliant or ensure an installation meets local safety guidelines can lead to severe injuries and costly liabilities. As such, it’s important to recognize hazards as they emerge and never lose sight of one’s safety responsibilities.

“It’s about accessing the roof safely, while working in a hazard-free environment, in order to get back down from the roof safely,” says Ghinn, adding, “The fact is that the number of roof fall-related injuries is alarming, meaning there is room to improve on safety. The good news, though, is that the risks we’re seeing out there today can be mitigated with the right partners and height safety solutions that are readily available.”

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE WITH THE RIGHT SAFETY EQUIPMENT

No doubt, modern rooftop hazards require modern safety solutions. For example, says the Skyline rep: “We see too many access ladders that are cut short at the bottom, requiring an extension ladder to gain access to the actual roof access ladder itself. This is often done to restrict roof ladder access to the public, but climbing a small ladder to grab the roof access ladder and then climb onto it is simply dangerous. That’s why we developed a lockable gate to block the first five-plus feet of steps and restrict unwanted access.”

The ability to manufacture ladders, guardrails, roof catwalks, and various other rooftop safety solutions in modular sections is also beneficial for today’s contractors. These solutions can be transported to the roof via a service elevator versus renting a crane, while also being installed in a fraction of the time. All while offering the capability to customize a solution that best fits the needs of the roof and local guidelines.

“The savings become quite substantial for all parties,” says Skyline’s rep, explaining, “Our non-penetrating permanent guardrail system, for example, is designed to be modular, making it quick and simple to install without needing to fasten into the existing roof frame. This eliminates the need to reseal the roof membrane for old or newly warranted roofs after an installation.”

Protecting workers and staying in compliance means understanding your rooftop hazards before heading up onto the roof, while having a solution in place to mitigate the risks as they unfold. After all, adds Ghinn, “Nobody should discover safety by accident.”

Roof Guardrail
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