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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

An Upgraded HVAC System Requires Improved Rooftop Safety

An Upgraded HVAC System Requires Improved Rooftop Safety

Safety Culture

TELUS is a dynamic, world-leading communications technology company providing wireless, data, IP, voice, television, entertainment, video, and security services. Their long-standing commitment to putting customers first fuels every aspect of their business, making them distinct in customer service excellence and loyalty.

Requiring Safe Access to A Small Rooftop

There is a misconception at times that a smaller rooftop can be easier to maintain and gain safe access to. One challenge amongst all rooftops with a limited footprint is that many of the HVAC units, and other RTUs, are within 6 feet of the roof’s edge. Thus, requiring a permanent guardrail or barrier to be installed to prevent the risk of a height-related injury. With Telus looking to upgrade its HVAC system, an updated safety solution was required.
roofbarrier rooftop guardrail system

Improved Rooftop Safety With A Guardrail System

Due to our knowledge and experience in providing height safety solutions that meet the communication industry’s needs, our team of safety specialists were consulted. The Trail office in British Columbia purchased two 5001 RoofBarrier systems; one straight 30-foot linear section with 4-foot outriggers and one 20’ x 25’ L section with 4-foot outriggers. Here is what made our roof barrier and guardrail system the primary choice for this site.

 

  • The 5001 RoofBarrier is a modular solution, making it quick and easy to install and transport to the roof.
  • The safety guardrail is manufactured in galvanized steel, minimizing the risk of corrosion.
  • With our roof safety solutions being stocked and ready to ship, we were able to meet the contractor’s timeline to install the upgraded HVAC system.
  • Our non-penetrating self-ballasted solution meant that the roof membrane would not require repairs. On the other hand, with a fixed guardrail, once the installation is complete you need to re-seal the area to ensure there are no potential water leaks that were made by the screws and fasteners.

All in all our self-ballasted roof guardrail solution saved both the contractor and end-user time and money.

The Toronto Transit Commission Ensures Safe Access to Rooftop Units

The Toronto Transit Commission Ensures Safe Access to Rooftop Units

Toronto Transit Commission

The Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) assumed responsibility for municipal transit services in the City of Toronto on September 1, 1921. This began an era of consolidation and expansion that accompanied and accelerated the astonishing growth of Toronto as a city. The TTC has played an important role in Toronto’s past and as we look ahead, it is exciting to think about how they are shaping the city’s future.

ensuring roof safety & compliance

The Toronto Transit Commission was looking to not only ensure rooftop safety compliance but take all safety precautions that would reduce the risk of a rooftop related injury. With the TTC having a safety-first culture, they reached out to the Skyline Group after conducting a self-rooftop safety assessment to review various hazards and related height safety solutions. Today’s industrial and commercial rooftops can quickly become crowded with various units sitting on the roof. When reviewing rooftop safety concerns, safety personnel are looking at how an employee or third-party contractor would go about approaching such rooftop units safely, for routine inspection and maintenance. These units come in various sizes and as such can be covered by regular snowfall during Toronto’s winter months. As a result, it is important to ensure that there is safe passage in and around these units year-round, reducing the risk of someone tripping over a duct system or stepping into a snow-covered skylight. This is no different at the TTC facility. When reviewing their rooftop HVAC systems, Skyline was tasked to ensure safe passage to each system, while enabling the maintenance team to be safe while working at heights. The criteria to be met fell into two categories: compliance and design.

 

Compliance Requirements
  • Platforms, stairs and guardrails designed to comply with all applicable loads, including OBC Part 3, OBC Part 4 and OSHA Reg. 851 S.14.
  • Platforms and stairs designed for a concentrated live load capacity of 1.3 kN and distributed live load capacity of 1.5 kPa.
  • Guardrails designed for a concentrated live load capacity of 1.0kN, compliant with OBC 4.1.5.14(b).
  • Total dead load of system not to exceed 0.5 kPa.
  • Dead load (0.5 kPa) plus live load (1.5 kPa) of platforms, guardrails, and stairs onto existing roof not to exceed 2.0 kPa, unfactored.
  • Dead load plus live load (2.0 kPa) of platforms, stairs, and guardrails not to exceed a maximum concentrated load onto the existing roof of 1.3kN. Achieved by having support posts on 600mm centres, max.
Design Requirements
  • Customization capabilities as some of the rooftop units are not standard in size.
  • Modular in design and installation.
  • Lightweight while still being robust to support the load requirements.
  • A permanent walkway, guardrail, platform and crossover solution.
  • Made of long-lasting anti-corrosive material.
  • Must meet a strict and short delivery time.
Roof Guardrail
Safety Roof Ladder
Walkway with Guardrail

Making Roof Safety & Compliance Easy

After a review of the rooftop access points and those rooftop units that require routine maintenance by the TTC. Skyline Group proposed a safety solution that ensured a safe walkway, including a guardrail system, manufactured in aluminum. This reduced the chance of a slip during the winter months, while offering a safe and secure platform to work from. The high-quality aluminum also offered corrosion protection for 10+ years. A crossover solution helped the facilities maintenance team safely walk and work at heights while on the roof. With the height safety solution being modular and made of aluminum, the general contractor was able to transport the units with ease. The savings in labor alone reduced the budget requirements for installation, enabling the opportunity for the general contractor to work on other rooftop-related projects for the TTC. This customized roof safety solution was not only under budget, but met strict deadlines.

Mohawk College Solves Tomorrow’s Height Safety Concerns Today

Mohawk College Solves Tomorrow’s Height Safety Concerns Today

A Leader Among Ontario's Colleges

Mohawk College is a leader among Ontario’s colleges. Deeply rooted in the local community and the present demands, they have a global perspective that addresses the needs of the future. Transforming the educational experience is at the core of Mohawk! They have honed their expertise in the technologies shaping the world and building a better and more inclusive tomorrow — artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, biotechnology, digital health and cybersecurity, to name a few. Students strive and grow with various applied learning opportunities facilitated both on and off campus. For example, the video you see below was created by Mohawk students looking to gain experience and get creative in showcasing their rooftop safety solutions.
 

As an inclusive college, Mohawk benefits from the diversity of thoughts, experiences, skills and talents of its students, faculty, staff, and administrators. They focus on creating an environment that reflects all identities, where every student belongs, is welcome and has a voice.

Solar Panel Safety

In the same manner that the Mohawk College is working towards finding creative ways to prepare their students for tomorrow’s needs, their facility maintenance team is constantly striving for improved safety for students, faculty, and service providers. With such a large rooftop, ensuring a safe environment is essential for the college. As the campus and facilities grow, the rooftop will tend to get busier with the latest technology to support the advancements impacting the students and staff.

Mohawk is the first Ontario college to get a STARS® Gold Rating for sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). This is partly due to the 100+ solar panels you will find on the college’s various rooftops. With the solar panels covering much of the roof, personnel must walk within 6 feet of the roof’s edge to access multiple sections of the rooftop. With the solar panels being so close to the roof’s edge, when maintenance is required, the working environment of the service personnel would pose a potential fall hazard. The facility maintenance team knew that anytime you are within 6 feet of a fall from a rooftop, you need a height safety solution.

Safety Roof Ladder

Non-Penetrating Guardrail System

The facility maintenance team reached out to the rooftop safety specialists at Skyline Group to better understand their needs and the available solutions. The Mohawk team was looking for a solution that was:

  • Quick and easy to install
  • Stocked ready to ship
  • Non-penetrating, eliminating the need to penetrate the roof membrane, which would require further repairs and costs to reseal those areas of the roof.
  • Compliant with Ontario height safety regulations and standards
  • Protected against corrosion during the winter months

As a result, the Skyline Group recommended their RoofBarrier 5001 series, as it would meet the college’s growing rooftop safety needs.

“I have worked with Skyline Group for a few years and have always had a great experience from working with the sales team to the team in production. The products have always been in stock and were ready to ship once the shop drawings were signed off. The safety guardrails are quick and easy to assemble.”

 

Jeremy Dowling – Engineering Services Officer

Decommissioning of a Non-Compliant Access Ladder

Decommissioning of a Non-Compliant Access Ladder

Fort McMurray Jubilee Plaza

There’s something for everyone in the family at the Fort McMurray Jubilee Plaza. Located at the corner of Hardin Street and MacDonald Avenue, Jubilee Plaza is where people of all ages are encouraged to hang out, have fun and relax—designed as a year-round social gathering place, regardless of the season. As the seasons change, so do the activities, including markets, outdoor entertainment, public rallies, fitness-related activities, and various community events.

rooftop elevation

The facility maintenance team at the Jubilee Plaza looked to access an elevated part of the roof. They noticed that the access ladder currently in place was no longer safe. Over the years, the installed ladder had become rusted and, after its most recent safety review by the maintenance team, was deemed non-compliant.

For the maintenance team, this provided an opportunity to upgrade the ladder to better meet their needs. The retired ladder was currently located at the side of the building, requiring personnel to climb up from the pedestrian walkway from the ground level. Jubilee Plaza was looking to install the new ladder in a much more convenient part of the roof, near the main roof access point. To do so, they would need to consider the edge of the roof, slanted window and limited wall space that was available for the installation to take place.

The primary challenge for the Jubilee Plaza maintenance team was to have a custom access ladder solution shipped “yesterday,” as immediate rooftop access was required.

Rooftop Safety

Fixed Aluminum roof ladder

The general contractor working with Jubilee Plaza recommended our line of modular access ladders. The general contractor and facility maintenance team selected the 7002 series fixed aluminum ladders with a platform and handrail combination due to the following reasons.

  • The quick turnaround on design, quoting and delivery.
  • The capability to customize a solution that best meets the roof’s needs while remaining compliant with local safety guidelines.
  • The modular design of the ladder made it quick and easy to install and transport to the roof.
  • Non-corrosive aluminum material.
  • The design ensured that the access ladder and platform did not obstruct the large window and its view.
  • The perforated platform ensured year-round safe access.
Rooftop Safety
Before
Access Ladder
After

Keeping Maintenance Team Safe on A Sloped Commercial Roof

Keeping Maintenance Team Safe on A Sloped Commercial Roof

Thunderbay Retail Centre

595 West Arthur Street is in Thunder Bay’s central highway commercial neighbourhood on the northeast corner of the signalized intersection of West Arthur Street and Mountdale Avenue. This multi-tenant, L-Shaped retail strip centre is surrounded by national retailers, International Airport, several hotels, a growing residential base and the busiest commercial corridor in Thunder Bay.


The commercial site covers 96,500 square feet and features approximately 250 feet of frontage. The building was built in 1993, consisting of a multi-tenant building with a small two-storey section.

Sloped Commercial Roof

The rooftop units (RTUs) were built close to the roof edge of a sloped commercial rooftop. Not only was the degree of the slope making it very difficult for the maintenance crew to have a safe passage to the HVAC units, but a safe environment to conduct maintenance wasn’t possible. A local contractor invited our team of walkway and guardrail specialists to help create a compliant and safe roof environment.

Rooftop Safety

Roof Walkway Creates A Safe Pathway

The local general contractor working on the mall, and the building owner, selected Skyline Group’s walkway and roof barrier solutions for the following reasons.

  • Skyline Group’s consulting expertise and experience in making rooftop access and compliance easy.
  • Build quality along with engineered stamped drawings.
    During a time when supply challenges are of great concern, we had the stock to deliver a quick and easy turnaround.
  • Custom capabilities to ensure a safe environment for maintenance staff.
    The unit’s modularity drastically reduced installation costs, making it a quick and easy installation. This also made it possible to grow the system over time as the rooftop gets busier with future RTUs.
  • The walkway and guardrail systems are manufactured in aluminum, facilitating transportation to the roof and the installation process. The lightweight solution also made meeting roof load bearing requirements a breeze.
  • The perforated walkway made it safe for rooftop access during the winter months.
roof railing

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