Rooftop Safety

Restricting Unauthorized Access to Your Rooftop

Restricting Unauthorized Access to Your Rooftop

Bottom view of compliant external access ladder

Why Restrict Unauthorized Roof Access?


Whether you want to prevent vandalism or ensure contractors’ safety, finding ways to prevent unauthorized access and reduce fall risks on your rooftop is essential. For some, climbing onto roofs can seem attractive and exciting. The intent is never to get hurt, but fatal accidents can occur while causing mischief or trying to break into a building. Sometimes it can be as simple as a young adult trying to retrieve a football from the school rooftop. With many rooftops missing the required safety solutions, mixed with the individual on the rooftop needing more training on how to utilize the available fall protection, the results can be fatal. During the winter months, hazards like skylights are challenging to see, even for those who work on rooftops 24/7, making unauthorized access a challenge that needs to be solved.

If someone experiences an injury on your rooftop, even if they access it without your permission, there’s a chance that you could still be liable. In Canada, the Westray Law (Bill C-45) makes the owner of the building criminally liable for injuries that occur on their rooftop. This liability is drastically mitigated when the appropriate rooftop safety solutions are in place.

I Can Simply Cut My Ladder Shorter, Right? Wrong!


Yes, you read that correctly! As we conduct in-person rooftop audits and work with partners across North America, many fixed access ladders are missing the first 5 – 12 feet of their ladder. You might be wondering why… The reason for doing so is to create a safer environment that restricts unwanted access to the roof. The thought process is as follows, if the ladder is too high to reach, then a step or extension ladder will be required, making it challenging for the general public to access the roof.
In principle, it sounds like a great idea, assuming that those that have easy access to a ladder are authorized to be on the roof. The challenge is that cutting the access ladder creates a new hazard that never existed in the first place. Let me explain, by cutting the ladder you are;

  • Cutting a ladder that the manufacturer built to meet your local safety guidelines, making that ladder non-compliant, as the product was altered after being tested and/or stamped.

  • Requiring your staff or service personnel to utilize a step ladder or extension ladder to climb onto the roof access ladder is creating a hazard in itself. Depending on how the ladder is cut there could be a lifeline that can only be used at 12 feet, making it difficult to tie your harness to. Some roof ladders also have a cage, so climbing into the caged ladder from the step ladder you are on poses its own unique hazard.

  • Also, when using a step ladder, it is not safe or allowed to step on the last step. Depending on your ladder length this may be required to climb onto the access ladder.

  • You will not always have three points of contact while climbing. This causes a major concern and increases the risk of a fall.

  • How about when you are now trying to descend from the ladder? If you are descending from a lifeline ladder you will be required to tie off from the lifeline while still being 12 feet from the ground, which is still considered to be a dangerous height across Canada.

  • Being able to descend from the roof also assumes that the step ladder on the ground hasn’t been removed. Being stuck on the roof waiting for someone to open the hatch door is not how service personnel want to spend their day.

  • Is not in compliance with fixed access ladder installation guidelines, as most codes require the bottom rung of a ladder to be around 300 mm (1 foot) off the ground.

As you can see from the above points, cutting your building’s outdoor access ladder 5 – 12 feet from the ground will create many more hazards than it solves. And the alternative, more compliant solution, is much easier and cost-effective to implement.

How Do I Restrict Unwanted Roof Access?


The answer is much simpler than one would think. When purchasing a fixed access ladder from Skyline Group you have the option to have a lockable door that easily integrates into your ladder system. This restricts unwanted access, as anyone who requires access to the roof would require approval or the key from the facility maintenance team or building owner. The installation is simple, as doors are fixed directly to the existing ladder frame, eliminating access to the first 6 – 8 rungs depending on the unit’s installation. If you have a cage on your ladder, a lockable security door attaches to the cage’s body. This restricts access to the inner section of the cage on the ladder. Cameras are also increasing in popularity, with video surveillance being an easy and proactive means to protect your roof from unauthorized access.

Your Rooftop Safety Partner

At Skyline Group we pride ourselves in being leaders in rooftop safety, making roof access and compliance easy. If you are faced with a rooftop hazard, such as a ladder that looks like the ones above, call our team of safety experts to learn about our array of aluminum access ladders and various other rooftop safety solutions.

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