When To Consider a Rooftop Warning Line System Versus a Safety Guardrail

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When To Consider a Rooftop Warning Line System Versus a Safety Guardrail

What is a Rooftop Guardrail or Barrier System?

First, let’s start with what is a rooftop guardrail/barrier. Unlike a warning line or bump line system, a guardrail system is intended to prevent roof workers from an injury or fatal fall. A guardrail is a form of fall protection referred to as a roof barrier, protecting personnel working near the roof edge. It comprises of uprights, top rails, mid rails, weighted base plates, and various clamps and screws. Not having a parapet on the roof poses a risk of tools falling to the levels below. In these cases, you will find that some of these roof barrier designs include a toe board.

Roof guardrails are manufactured in various materials and can be either fixed to the roof or non-penetrating, freely standing with a weighted base plate. Both options are permanent solutions, but with the non-penetrating design, you have the flexibility to move the guardrail around the roof with ease. This is becoming a popular solution as it requires minimal on-site setup time, especially if you are looking at our modular RoofBarrier system.

What is a Bump Line or Warning Line System?

Warning barriers and bump lines are intended to visually warn roof workers of a potential rooftop injury or fall. Ultimately, only alerting you not to pass the warning line without additional safety equipment. Bump lines are usually set up around the work area at least 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) from the hazard. Common hazards would include a nearby roof edge, an open access hatch, and a glass skylight. These systems are commonly made up of uprights, a weighted base plate in order to be freestanding, a chain or rope linking the uprights together, and several high visibility flags that are not too far apart.

When a work area is enclosed, and a bump line is installed in a manner that meets local regulations, the site is considered a safe work environment, enabling personnel to work freely without a permanent guardrail in place. In essence, the warning system acts as a safety perimeter for all those working on the roof. Please note that each region differs in how a bump line should be used, along with how many posts are required for a given length of space. Always refer to your local rooftop safety guidelines or speak to a height safety specialist for more information. Keep in mind that anyone outside the area working less than 2 meters from a hazard must use appropriate fall protection on the rooftop, possibly
requiring a safety system like our RoofBarrier system.

When Should I be Considering a Warning Line System?

Fixed Aluminum Guardrail
RoofLine Series

Warning line systems are traditionally used and designed to access areas of a commercial flat rooftop nearing the roof edge. The bump line system would be placed 2 meters from the roof edge, warning personnel of a nearby hazard. The design, like many permanent guardrail systems, is freestanding. This eliminates the requirement to penetrate the roof, ultimately exposing your building to leaks and extra labor in order to patch the roof.

In many scenarios, the work that is being done on a roof is near the edge. With advancements in building technology, we are finding that roofs are becoming more crowded than ever before. For example, many HVAC units are installed only feet or inches away from the roof edge, with gas lines, ducts and other RTUs taking up most of the space. To maintain those units regularly, building owners must meet safety compliance codes and ensure safe passage to and from the HVAC unit. Along with creating a secure and safe site for maintenance to be done around the HVAC unit. Being so close to the roof edge makes a bump line not feasible and not compliant. Now, what if the HVAC unit is located in the middle of the roof, far away from the roof edge, but the pathway to get to the HVAC unit is hugging the edge of the roof? The HVAC working area itself wouldn’t require a permanent barrier-type solution, enabling the use of a bump line system. However, the pathway itself would need a guardrail on the side nearing the roof edge to ensure a safe and compliant environment.

The Verdict

Whether you’re a building owner, contractor, engineer, consultant, or supplier of safety equipment, we have an obligation to make sure we provide a safe environment for our colleagues, family, and friends to work in. If you are unsure about rooftop safety regulations in your region, it is important that you consult your company’s safety official and/or a third party that has compliance experience. Nobody wants to discover safety by accident!

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