Rooftop Safety

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.

Beyond Compliance: Preventing Workplace Tragedies

Here at Skyline Group, we’re often presented with stark reminders of the human cost of avoidable accidents. More than that, we’re presented with grave indicators of the potentially tragic consequences of designing safety solutions around mere legal compliance rather than ensuring total safety for workers at heights. We invite commercial property owners, building managers, facilities professionals, and contractors to discover how our approach to height safety not only meets safety requirements but most importantly exceeds them.

Decades of experience in height safety has taught us that meeting legal compliance standards simply isn’t enough. Our approach continues to be validated by what we see happening around us, and a recent ruling in the province of Ontario is a tragic – yet important – example.

In May 2023, a leading industrial manufacturer was fined a total of $325,000 after a worker died at its facility when replacing a pneumatic cylinder on a milling machine. The province found that the worker wasn’t wearing any protection when they fell 2.86 metres onto a concrete floor, dying from their injuries. In this sad case, the Ministry of Labor stated that the employer failed to take every reasonable precaution to prevent the fatal injury from happening, including “ensuring the worker used an adequate means of fall protection” as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Protecting Lives: Learning from Example

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and related regulations set crucial safety standards, including mandatory fall protection above three metres, that can be seen in safety standards across Canada. Yet, the tragic incident highlighted above reveals that serious accidents can occur even below these specified heights, emphasizing the need for vigilant safety measures.

While no two elevated workspaces are the same, we’ve found that many of our safety solutions offer universal benefits. Keep reading to learn more about these solutions, with real-life examples of how they have transformed safety levels for workers at height.

Lifeline Ladders: A Critical Measure

Access Ladder
  • The Solution: One of the most effective ways to prevent falls from heights is through the use of lifeline ladders. Our lifeline ladders are equipped with stainless steel cables that enable workers to attach themselves securely via a harness. This system provides continuous fall protection, ensuring that workers are safe as they ascend and descend.
  • The Result: At the Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, we implemented lifeline ladders to enhance worker safety. The facility maintenance team required safe access to the stadium’s floodlights for routine upkeep. By installing modular aluminum lifeline ladders with a base platform and a mid-way resting platform, we provided a secure means of access that significantly reduced the risk of a fall.

Modular Access Ladders: Where Flexibility Meets Safety

  • The Solution: Unlike steel or fully welded roof ladders or makeshift solutions like portable ladders, fixed modular access ladders can provide a safer alternative to gaining access to the rooftop. Skyline Group’s selection of modular aluminum fixed ladders are designed for easy installation and can be fully customized according to the needs of any elevated workspace. Fundamentally, these solutions provide safe and stable access to work areas at height, minimizing the risks of falls.
  • The Result: At BC Hydro, we addressed the challenge of navigating various roof levels by installing fixed modular aluminum access ladders. These ladders, combined with a safety gate, ensured that only authorized personnel could access the rooftop. The modular design allowed for easy transportation and installation, significantly reducing labour hours while enhancing the safety and efficiency of maintenance operations.

Guardrails & Barriers: Consistent Protection

  • The Solution: Guardrails and barriers are essential for creating safe work environments at height. These systems provide continuous protection, preventing workers from accidentally stepping off edges or into hazardous areas. Our non-penetrating guardrail systems are particularly beneficial as they do not compromise the integrity of the roof structure.
  • The Result: In addition to step ladders and access ladders, we installed non-penetrating guardrails at the McCain Foods facility. These guardrails created a safe perimeter around the rooftop, ensuring that workers could move freely without the risk of falling. The robust construction of the guardrails also ensured longevity and reliability, even in harsh weather conditions.

Creating a Culture of Safety: Training & Support

  • The Solution: Beyond installing safety equipment, it is crucial to ensure that workers are adequately trained in its use. Skyline Group offers comprehensive training programs that educate workers on the correct use of safety equipment and the importance of adhering to safety protocols. These programs are designed to foster a culture of safety within organizations, ensuring that safety is always a top priority.
  • The Result: As part of a significant design project for a commercial building in Montreal, Skyline Group delivered tailored and highly comprehensive training on the hazards that come with climbing to a rooftop via a hatch. This allowed architects to make informed decisions on creating a safe and compliant means of accessing the roof via hatch openings. Beyond that, this training facilitated a culture of safety throughout the lifespan of the project, and throughout the organization as a whole.

Preventing Workplace Tragedies: Your Responsibility

The lessons we must learn as members of the building community are clear: achieving safety in elevated workspaces demands more than just meeting minimum legal standards – it demands a commitment to exceeding them.

At Skyline Group, we’re passionate about pushing the boundaries of true safety in workplaces throughout North America. Partnering with a height safety specialist can drive positive change and consign such tragic cases to the past.

Elevated Work, Elevated Safety: Speak to an Expert Now

Ensuring compliance with minimum legal standards isn’t enough. Here at Skyline, we provide the expertise, solutions, and services you need to go beyond compliance and into true safety. To get started, browse our full selection of safety solutions or reach out to one of our safety experts for a consultation.

French Fry Production Plant Improves Roof Safety: A Case Study

The Challenge

Rooftop workers, including facilities and maintenance teams needed a safer way to navigate various roof levels, requiring a system that integrated and installed on-site with ease by their preferred installer.

The Solution

A system made up of modular aluminum and galvanized steel components to create a safe means of accessing the rooftop and its various levels, ensuring a safe environment for facility maintenance teams and contractors to work freely while at height.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

McCain® was started by the McCain brothers in New Brunswick and is still proudly Canadian and family-owned. A homegrown Canadian success story, McCain now has 51 plants around the globe and produces one in every four French fries worldwide.

McCain Foods’ Canada Carberry facility is one of the company’s french fry production plants located in Manitoba. The plant processes about 430 million pounds of Manitoba-grown potatoes every year, mostly into french fries, with the facility employing over 200 workers.

With the company having a wealth of knowledge and experience in operating the production plant safely, there was a need for better understanding of the hazards that are present on their industrial rooftop. The facility maintenance team reached out to their roof safety specialists at Skyline Group to partner on elevating their fall protection safety program. With McCain Foods having experience in trusting our solutions on previous projects it was an easy decision to reach out for guidance on their Manitoba plant.

ELEVATED WORK: THE CHALLENGES

The facility maintenance team at McCain Foods routinely reviews their safety protocols, this time they were focused on improving safety on two fronts: (1) creating safe access between roof levels, while (2) ensuring a safe working environment for those maintaining RTUs and navigating the rooftop. The maintenance team was prepared to discuss roof safety options as they came to the table with pictures documenting the environment and areas of concern.

With roof repair and maintenance commencing, McCain Foods wanted a solution that would meet their strict deadlines to ensure that the safety solutions be put in place right after the roof repairs and upgrades were completed.

After an in-depth review of the site and roof layout, it was clear that the roof safety solutions had to solve the following hazards and safety concerns:

  • Outdoor Elements: With the rooftop being frequently visited year-round, the fall protection system needed to withstand the weather elements while providing maximum protection and grip when visibility is reduced by snow and rain.
  • Roof Edge Protection: Whenever teams are required to walk or work in proximity of the roof edge, approximately 6 feet, they are required to have some form of fall protection in order to protect workers from a potential fall. Due to the size of each roof section, workers at height constantly faced a risk of a fall.
  • Dedicated Pathway: How many times do workers at height think of taking a shortcut while working, to then realize it cost them more time? Navigating the roof can be similar in that workers will take the path that gets them to their destination the quickest – although it may not be the safest.
  • Roof Elevations: Having multiple roof elevations can be challenging and quite dangerous, as teams are climbing to new heights while already being at height. This makes it essential to find ways to ensure a safe climb, every time.
  • Replacing Non-Compliant Solutions: Ensuring compliance is crucial. At Skyline we feel that is where true safety begins – not ends. In order to gain access to the several rooftops, contractors were using a mix of DIY solutions, including contractor step ladders and extensions ladders, creating a fall concern as it is impossible to maintain three points of contact when utilizing such ad-hoc solutions.
  • Minimizing Roof Damage & Repair: When replacing a roof membrane or repairing a section of the roof, the last thing teams want to do is create new intrusions that need to be resealed on a brand-new roof. Such fixed solutions can also pose a roof warranty issue while yielding the building owner increased labour hours and costs.

It goes without saying that the solutions provided would be required to not only meet, but surpass Manitoba’s Occupational Safety Code requirements.

ELEVATED SAFETY: OUR SOLUTIONS

When it came to creating a safe climb, every time, Skyline recommended modular aluminum roof stairs that enable safe access to each elevation of the rooftop. The roof stairs added an extra layer of safety over a fixed access ladder.

With the added side rails, employees and contractors would now be able to walk to each level safely while still carrying tools and machine parts with them. This is opposed to a fixed access ladder that would have been less suitable for a high traffic rooftop. When climbing from one rooftop to another, the addition of non-penetrating guardrails also created an enclosed perimeter, removing the risk of a fall as teams would approach the edge of the rooftop.

After reviewing the rooftop layout and where foot traffic is required to accomplish maintenance tasks, the team specified a non-penetrating galvanized steel guardrail system to be used as a means of creating a safe perimeter near the edges of the rooftop.

The system was installed where passage or work would be close to the roof edge (within 6 feet), creating a safety barrier preventing a fall from dangerous heights. Including anchor points wasn’t an option as McCain Foods wanted to avoid a fall proactively rather than have a system in place for when one does fall. The robust construction caught the eye of the maintenance team, while the modularity of the solution and its capability to be easily fitted for installation on-site made life easy for the installers.

With the solution being non-penetrating, no intrusions were made to the rooftop, eliminating the risk of leaks or the need to repair the rooftop after installation. The modularity of the unit also means that the guardrail can expand and grow with the needs of the rooftop. Finally, the design of the non-penetrating guardrail system took into consideration the placement of the roof stairs, creating a safe barrier as you approach the steps to descend to the floor below.

THE TRUSTED CHOICE: PROJECT OUTCOMES

The comprehensive safety solution provided by Skyline Group to McCain Foods’ Manitoba facility has significantly enhanced the safety and efficiency of rooftop operations. By installing modular aluminum roof stairs and non-penetrating galvanized steel guardrails, Skyline Group addressed multiple challenges effectively:

  • Enhanced Access and Safety: The aluminum stairs provided secure, stable access across various roof levels, enabling workers to move safely with tools and equipment. This was a crucial improvement over previous ad-hoc ladder solutions that compromised safety.
  • Robust Perimeter Protection: The installation of guardrails created a solid barrier around roof edges, preventing falls from heights and increasing the overall safety for maintenance staff.
  • Non-Intrusive Installation: The non-penetrating nature of the installed systems preserved the integrity of the new roof membrane, avoiding potential leaks and warranty issues while minimizing the need for future repairs.
  • Compliance with Safety Regulations: The solutions not only met but exceeded Manitoba’s Occupational Safety Code requirements, ensuring that the facility’s safety measures were up-to-date and effective.
  • Operational Efficiency: The modularity of the safety installations facilitated quick on-site assembly, which aligned perfectly with the plant’s operational timelines and minimized disruption to their production processes.

This strategic intervention by Skyline Group has not only fortified the safety standards at McCain Foods but also fostered a culture of safety that resonates with the company’s commitment to protecting its workers and maintaining high operational efficiency.

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.

20221019_071709

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.

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

HatchBarrier

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. 

High-Slope Rooftop Safety Solution: A Case Study

The Challenge

A high-slope rooftop created an elevated working environment fraught with risk, with facility maintenance teams facing a number of fall hazards.

The Solution

A comprehensive package of safety solutions including a walkway with guardrail system, a hatch guardrail system and a fixed ladder.

Project Overview 

The safety experts at Skyline Group were contacted by the facility maintenance manager and roofing contractor, working on behalf of the building owner. The roofing contractor highlighted the challenges presented by the steep sloped roof. The layout of this rooftop created a working environment fraught with risk, with a sloped design making the safe navigation of the rooftop difficult for the building owner, facility maintenance teams and contractors alike.

man standing on Texas rooftop

Elevated Work: The Challenges

For workers employed by the building owner and facility maintenance team, attempting to access and work on this sloped rooftop brought to light a series of hazards that could potentially result in a fall.

The primary safety concern in this project was in how workers had no secure footing on a sloped part of the roof, nor access to a levelled platform. In this scenario, the inclined rooftop not only creates an environment where the worker has a higher chance of tripping or falling; it also makes it extremely difficult for that worker to conduct the work at-hand.

This sloped rooftop presented inherent safety risks not just to workers at height, such as contractors and facility maintenance teams: it also compromised the safety of those outside at ground level. This was because the incline made it difficult for workers to position tools and other equipment securely. This created a scenario where those tools could roll or fall off the roof, with potentially fatal consequences if actions were not to be taken.

Finally, when walking on this sloped rooftop, facility maintenance teams and contractors had no means of secure access, especially with the slippery roof material making it a significant challenge to gain secure footing.

man on rooftop ladder on Texas rooftop

Elevated Safety: Our Solutions

Following extensive consultations and in partnership with the roofing contractor and building owner, our team of height safety and fall protection experts got to work on specifying a comprehensive package of safety solutions including a walkway with a guardrail system, a hatch guardrail system and a fixed ladder. By providing a combination of these safety essentials, Skyline Group ensured secure access and a working environment where the risk to those workers was now minimized.

Firstly, the 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 served as a means of increasing stability while walking for workers at height, but also created an enclosure ensuring that they take the guided pathway.

Aside from that, our next focus was on addressing the lack of safety for workers while climbing out of the rooftop hatch. By recommending and implementing a custom hatch barrier solution with a gate, our team ensured a safe means of stepping out of the hatch, with the gate closing automatically behind the worker. This negated a significant safety hazard, where an open hatch could create a fall hazard with a dangerous opening where an employee could fall through.

Finally, our implementation of a fixed access ladder provided safe access to other rooftops via a dedicated hatch. With each rooftop having anchor points, we ensured that the walkway and ladder system led workers to a safe anchor point where a barrier system wasn’t possible.

Across all areas of this project, our client saw significant advantages in the modularity of the safety solutions we provided. Their lightweight aluminum construction caught the attention of the roofing contractor as it would make for an easy and quick installation.

installed rooftop safety solution. walkways, guardrails

The Trusted Choice: Project Outcomes

The outcome of this project saw height safety transformed for our client. Our comprehensive approach established a secure and dependable work environment on a challenging sloped rooftop.

Through the implementation of a walkway system with integrated guardrails, a custom hatch barrier solution, and a fixed access ladder, we significantly minimized risk factors for workers at height. This not only ensured their safety but also enhanced operational efficiency on the rooftop.

The lightweight, modular design of our solutions facilitated a swift installation, reducing labor and transport costs, thereby offering our client a cost-effective, durable, and highly functional safety system.

Count On It: What Our Customer Said 

This project had a lot to consider. We were grateful to have the support of the Skyline team, helping with designing and providing a safety solution that checked all our requirements.”

Elevated Safety Series: Our Mission & Vision with Vincenzo Cutrone

Across Canada and beyond, rooftop safety is undergoing immense change. Few understand these changes better than Vincenzo Cutrone, Marketing Manager at Skyline Group. In the first of our Elevated Safety Series, we sit down with Vince to discuss Skyline’s guiding mission and vision, and how they align with changing safety needs across North America.

 

Tell us about your story with Skyline Group. What motivated you to specialize in rooftop safety?

“For me, the decision to join the team at Skyline Group was driven by that core principle – that core need – to ensure safety for workers at height. 

“For myself, when I’m doing some DIY work at home, safety is always a concern. For our customers, who are always working at height – that concern is all the more significant. They work in inherently dangerous environments, and all it takes is one fall to change their lives forever. 

“These workers face all of the usual distractions that people like me face – communicating with customers, checking emails, carrying equipment. On top of that, they’re dealing with the potentially lethal challenges of wind, rain and those other hazards that arise from working at height, and that represents a dangerous combination. Falling through an open hatch or falling off an elevated platform can have tragic, real-life consequences, all of which are avoidable.

“Thinking about the impact of rooftop safety incidents on companies, individuals and families makes us ask ourselves how we can be part of the change. It’s all about looking at how we ensure our clients don’t discover safety by accident. The key is in being proactive, and not just reactive. 

“Consider this – many people may suggest that staff at-height should wear safety harnesses at all times. To that, we say that the fall itself shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and that’s really what I and the wider Skyline Group want to get at in the work we do. How do we help the industry? How do we change perspectives around safety compliance, versus being safe? Those are the questions that drove my decision to join the company.”

 

How does Skyline Group’s vision align with the evolving needs of rooftop safety in North America?

“Our vision is to become the North American trusted choice for safe elevated work areas. Our mission coincides with that: to create safe elevated work areas that protect people, companies and brands. So – how does this play into the wider industry?

“Put simply, when we want to specify a solution for an application, we want to base our advice on a foundation of trust, first and foremost. Our customers want to work with a company that can be relied upon for its expertise, its experience and the know-how they need to create solutions that are tailored to their elevated workspace.

Rooftop construction safety foreman with safety vest, helmet, clipboard, and cellphone

“As an example, let’s say that you’re a commercial property owner, and you have a HVAC contractor conducting maintenance on your rooftop. You may not know what the rules and regulations are around that particular environment. Or, you may have been warned by one of your workers about non-compliant aspects of your rooftop, or safety gaps. Of course, you may be simply unaware of these issues as a whole. Regardless of what option applies to you, if there is an injury, you’re at fault. 

“Our mission and vision seek to go beyond that level of understanding. We try to make sure users of our client’s elevated work areas go home safe at the end of the day to their families. 

“On top of that, we’re also seeking to protect our customers and their brand integrity from those hazards. If you’re a big brand in your community, the last thing you need are safety concerns. If you do have an accident, you’ll find it all the more harder to recruit staff. If you’re seen as not prioritizing safety, you risk losing out on talent, and losing out on potential business. In this sense, we aren’t just protecting people – we’re protecting companies and brands.

“It’s all about creating safer elevated work environments, and a lot of that is down to the information we can offer as an industry expert. You can rely on us to understand your roof environment before you. It’s not just a phone call – it extends to pictures, looking at the landscape of your roof, to On-Site Safety Consultations and ideas as to how you can create a safer environment. 

“We’re on a constant journey of improvement in terms of understanding how workers access areas at height, and how they can do it safely. That’s why it is so critical for us to be there, in-person, to understand those challenges better. You just never know what you’re going to encounter.”

 

What are the most significant changes you’ve observed in rooftop safety standards in recent years?

“We’re seeing a lot of technology being applied, and roofs are becoming busier and busier, regardless of their shape or size. Data centers are a great example – these facilities require a lot of cooling, requiring large HVAC installations on the roof. Meanwhile, a lot of green buildings would have solar panels on their rooftop, and that creates new hazards that weren’t present before. 

Two rooftop workers walking on the rooftop of a commercial building

“Wherever this kind of technology is used, you’re restricting access in and around the roof, creating a pathway that might require workers to be closer to the edge. Creating a safe distance here isn’t always possible, so using a guardrail and walkway system, for example, ensures a dedicated pathway around those panels, whilst also providing a means for maintenance teams to access them. Technology means possibilities – but in the world of rooftops, it also means hazards. Codes and regulations just haven’t caught up yet with this new trend.”

 

What Innovations at Skyline are setting new standards in the industry?

Let’s look at the new challenge we just touched upon, in terms of rooftops becoming more crowded with new technology. We’re looking at how we can provide solutions to meet that, using our inventory of solutions to minimize risk. It isn’t just about protecting against a fall – it’s about stopping a worker from ever reaching that point.

On a general level, our modular solutions are becoming solutions of choice for our customers, and it’s not hard to see why. Easier to transport, easier to install, easier to adjust and adapt versus a welded system. Modularity makes it really easy to put systems in place quickly, that aren’t only compliant, but completely safe. 

We look at how we can provide a solution that’s easily and quickly installed, that won’t take days or weeks to install. Months down the line, if you want to change an aspect of your rooftop, our solutions allow our customers to do that. In that sense, we’re constantly moving along with the evolving needs of our customers. Whether you’re installing these systems yourself or using a contractor, you can rest assured that you’ll be making significant labor savings. 

We’re also seeing a greater focus on the materials used, and that has a major impact on how our solutions are transported and installed. For example, a small team generally prefers aluminum to working with than the heavier, harder-to-manage steel alternative. 

 

What recent project has allowed Skyline to drive change in this area?

One example that comes to mind is a large school we worked with in Ontario, in the process of embracing green technologies. They wanted to cover the roof with solar panels, so much so that there wouldn’t be enough space to navigate the roof. 

When looking at the drawings of the rooftop and how the solar panels would be installed and located, we discovered that it would be quite difficult for maintenance crews to navigate across different rooftops. Maintenance teams would have been forced to walk around the edges of the rooftop to access other areas, or to access the solar panels or any HVAC units. 

Right away, we recommended a walkway solution that would ensure safe passage along the edges of the rooftop, with a guardrail system that would protect against slips and falls. 

As individuals, we try to take the path of least resistance, especially when carrying tools, all adding to the risk. By forcing a safe, enclosed pathway, we guarantee a safe passage. 

 

How does Skyline navigate different regulations in Canada and the USA?

We navigate these challenges thanks to our dedicated team of safety specialists that guide us in the decisions we make, and they’re supported by fantastic Project Management and engineering teams with a deep understanding of safety regulations across each province.

Canadian maple leaf on flag with judge gavel on flag

We have a comprehensive resource document that guides us in terms of these differing codes, and helps us understand how these codes may impact any of the rooftops we’re working on, applying those rules to the rooftop itself. For us, understanding the rules is a second nature reflex. What changes is the application itself – all roofs are structured differently. Getting creative in terms of providing solutions to those challenges is what we’re all about. 

If you’re a Building Manager or building owner, contractor or someone who specifies solutions on a roof or an architect, the rules can be quite daunting and difficult to understand. However, we make that easy. To get started, feel free to reach out to me or a member of the team to better understand the rules impacting your elevated workspace. 

 

Discover Skyline – Elevated Work. Elevated Safety.™

Don’t discover safety by accident. Here at Skyline, we’re inviting you to join us on our mission, moving one step closer to changing the narrative on rooftop safety. To get started, browse our full range of safety solutions. Alternatively, reach out to an expert or find out more about our popular Lunch and Learn training programs. 

 

Fall Prevention Month: Changing the Narrative on Rooftop Safety

November marks Fall Prevention Month in Canada: an annual reminder that the safety of workers at height is a shared responsibility. Preventable falls remain a sobering reality, with rooftop environments presenting their own unique set of challenges. As Skyline Group delves into a month dedicated to fall prevention, we explore how building managers can combine awareness and action to transform the current narrative surrounding rooftop falls.

This important month reminds us that falls are not just accidents; they are a global concern that can lead to devastating outcomes. Some recent statistics highlight the importance in creating preventative strategies for hazards that can lead to a fall from heights:

Each fall is not just a statistic; it represents an individual whose life has been profoundly affected, along with their families. However, while these figures may seem daunting, the encouraging fact is that the vast majority of falls are preventable.

Changing the Narrative Through Awareness & Action

Whilst we all face a shared responsibility to maintain health and safety, building managers hold a pivotal role in preventing rooftop falls. One of the most effective tools in the fight against falls is the Hierarchy of Controls, highlighted in the infographic below.

 

At its core, the Hierarchy of Controls is a systematic approach to risk mitigation, emphasizing prevention as the cornerstone of safety. It categorizes control measures into five distinct levels, each building upon the other to create a comprehensive safety net.

In the fight against rooftop falls, real change can be achieved by integrating an understanding of this hierarchy with the implementation of a robust safety infrastructure. As you review each element of the safety hierarchy, take the time to think on how this methodology can be applied to your rooftop environment.

Hierarchy of Controls Explained

1. Elimination

At the highest level of the hierarchy of controls lies “Elimination.” This is the most comprehensive and effective approach to mitigating hazards in the workplace. In essence, elimination involves removing the hazard entirely, thereby removing the associated risks.

The principle of elimination aligns with the fundamental concept that the safest way to deal with a hazard is to make sure it no longer exists. In an ideal scenario, elimination results in a workplace where the hazard is no longer present, and consequently, no risk of harm remains.

While elimination is the most effective control measure, it’s also the most challenging to achieve. It often necessitates a fundamental rethinking of processes, systems and infrastructure. However, when successfully implemented, it offers unparalleled levels of safety and protection for workers.

While elimination is the most effective control measure, it may not always be achievable in every situation. In such cases, organizations must move down the hierarchy to consider other control measures like substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. Nevertheless, the pursuit of elimination should always be at the forefront of safety planning, as it represents the gold standard in risk reduction.

2. Substitution

Substitution is the next level in the hierarchy of controls when elimination is not feasible. It involves replacing a hazardous material, equipment, or process with a less hazardous alternative. The essence of substitution is to swap out the hazard for something safer, thereby reducing the risk to workers.

The process of substitution begins with a thorough assessment of the hazard, its associated risks, and the potential alternatives. It is crucial to ensure that the replacement is genuinely less hazardous and does not introduce new risks or hazards that may be equally or more harmful. Careful consideration must be given to assessing the comparative risk levels between the existing hazard and the proposed substitute.

Substitution can significantly enhance workplace safety by reducing the inherent risks associated with a particular task or process. However, it’s important to recognize that substitution may not always be straightforward, and careful consideration is required to ensure that the alternative is genuinely safer. When done correctly, substitution is an effective means of risk reduction, promoting a safer and healthier work environment for employees.

3. Engineering Controls

When elimination or substitution are not viable, engineering controls come into play. These can be physical changes to the rooftop environment that reduce the risk. They can also be process-driven. The safety solutions designed and installed on the rooftop separate the roof worker from nearby fall hazards. The solution is applied to the site of the hazard before the hazard comes into contact with the roof worker. By controlling the exposure of the hazard you are able to lessen its impact. Examples of engineering controls from a product based solution is the inclusion of roof guardrails, dedicated walkways, work platforms or non-slip surfaces to mitigate the potential fall hazard. The guardrail will not remove the fall hazard as you are still working on the rooftop, but it will create a fixed barrier between you and the hazard, ultimately separating you from it. Keep in mind that an important element of an engineered control system is that it does not rely on the worker to be trained like you would in order to use a fall protection lanyard.

  • Skyline recommends: Guardrails/Barriers and Access Ladders are the two most common inquiries. Designed to be robust and reliable, our guardrails and barriers create a formidable protective barrier, ensuring that rooftop perimeters and openings are safeguarded against falls. Meanwhile, our access ladders provide secure vertical access, a crucial engineering control in preventing falls during ascent and descent. Coupling these solutions with walkway and crossover systems/platforms, building owners can create safe passage while walking and working around the rooftop.

4. Administrative Controls

Beyond physical modifications, administrative controls focus on changing work practices and procedures. This might involve scheduling rooftop work during favorable weather conditions, implementing comprehensive training programs, and establishing clear protocols for rooftop access.

  • Skyline recommends: Hazard Reviews are a great means of understanding your roof layout. Our expert assessments and audits offer building managers valuable insights and recommendations. This service supports the development of effective administrative controls and policies to enhance rooftop safety. Aside from helping building managers create a comprehensive safety plan, our experts will assist in devising various procedures and policies on working safely on worktops or at heights. This not only enhances your administrative controls – it fosters a culture of safety throughout your organization. In our experience administrative controls should always be considered, even when engineering controls are in place it is never a bad idea to understand if improvements can be made to your work processes and procedures while on the rooftop.

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE represents the last line of defence in the hierarchy, providing an extra layer of safety and a strong preventative measure against injury. It includes safety gear like harnesses, helmets, and safety glasses. While vital, PPE should not be the first or sole method of protection; it should complement other controls. For instance, in a scenario where a worker is maintaining a HVAC system near a roof edge that has a guardrail, the guardrail represents an engineered solution. However, PPE solutions such as gloves, helmets, high-vis vests and fall arrest systems (lanyards) can be combined with the guardrail to enhance the safety at the core of your rooftop operations. If we focus our attention to lanyards and fall arrest solutions, PPE is at the bottom of the hierarchy because it is only in use when a fall occurs. Nobody wants to test out their PPE, a roof worker would prefer not to fall at all, which is why it can be viewed as complementary.

  • Skyline recommends: PPE solutions need to be carefully reviewed, while taking into consideration the requirements of your work environment and the workers that use them. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to PPE. Instead, it is crucial to work with your safety partner to identify opportunities where the addition of PPE can complement other safety controls. Whether through our Annual Inspection Service or our Lunch and Learn Training Program, Skyline’s experts are on-hand to review your rooftop environment, and recommend where PPE would be a vital solution.

Applying the Hierarchy of Controls on Your Rooftop

You might be asking yourself, “how can I use the hierarchy of controls in my application”? We recommend starting with identifying those hazards present on your rooftop. Once defined you want to spend time with your team and those that work on the rooftop, brainstorming how you can block the path between the worker and the hazard. One hierarchy at a time starting with elimination, you want to create a list of actions that should be taken to solve the hazard. Ideally, you want to list out all of the hazards and actions you could take within each hierarchy. When doing this activity, ask the team involved:

  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of each action within each hierarchy level?
  • Are the controls you are looking to set out even feasible? For example, substituting a chemical for a safer option may not be an option as it will alter the final product you are producing.
  • This is one that is often missed, but will this action create new unforeseen hazards? We don’t want to solve one hazard by creating a new one.

This process does take time, and you may require a quicker solution. If it will take time to implement one or many of the actions, use one or more of the lower hierarchy options to get started. For example, you may use PPE equipment while waiting for delivery and installation of the ‘engineered controls’ safety solution in order to urgently create a safer environment.

 

This Fall Prevention Month, Drive Positive Change

Looking for a worksheet to start from when applying the hierarchy of controls? Download our one-page template here to get started.

Safety is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and at Skyline Group, we provide tailored solutions to address the unique challenges of each rooftop environment. To start playing your own role in changing the narrative of rooftop safety, contact us for a complimentary consultation or browse our full range of safety solutions.

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