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University Of Toronto (14) Medium

5 Tips for Rooftop Safety in Winter

Before anyone jokes about Canadian winters, remember that winter means many wonderful things: beautiful landscapes, skiing, hockey on a frozen pond, snowboarding, and a joyous holiday season. People also burn more calories during the winter, sleep better, and have a respite from summer heat and health problems.

The need for regular maintenance and repair of equipment on the rooftop does not take a winter break, though. In fact, snow and ice may require more attention to HVAC systems, solar panels, and other rooftop equipment. Winter conditions also present greater challenges to workers for roof fall protection. Fortunately, there are several steps employers can take to help ensure the safety of their employees working at height before Old Man Winter arrives.


1. The Big Picture – Roof Perimeter Protection

Snow and ice are hazardous on the ground, so consider the dangers that these elements of nature present on a rooftop. And high winds with swirling snow and poor visibility can cause workers to misjudge the distance to the roof edge.

For flat and low-slope roofs, perimeter roof guardrails provide workers with fall protection. A modular, counterbalanced system does not penetrate the roof membrane and has the flexibility to conform to the roof configuration. The railings should be constructed of aluminum or galvanized steel for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. If roof access is via a ladder, a self-closing gate that integrates into the guardrail system offers added safety.

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2. All Holes Barred – Skylight and Dome Protection

Skylights and roof domes are technically considered holes in the roof, and there are more injuries to people falling onto skylights than from roofs. Although there are lovely clear days during the winter when the sun shines through, there may be times when a skylight is covered in snow and practically invisible to the worker. 

A skylight railing system surrounding the skylight or roof dome prevents workers from stepping onto the “hole in the roof.” Aluminum or galvanized railings and connecting components can be powder coated in bright orange or yellow for greater visibility. 

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3. Walk the Line – Pathway Protection

Workers traversing the roof can be directed along the safest paths possible in various ways.

A raised walkway system with guardrails presents a clear route for workers to reach their destinations on the roof and perform their tasks. The walkways feature anti-slip treads and can be adapted to roof angles up to 35 degrees.

Roofs can be filled with obstacles such as piping, conduits, and cables that present trip hazards, especially if hidden by snow. Stepover platforms offer a simple solution for workers to navigate over these obstructions.

To cover a wide area, generally away from the roof edge, a warning line system delineates a safe path or section for workers. It features heavy-duty rubber bases, corrosion-resistant uprights, stainless steel connecting cables coated in vinyl, and highly visible demarcation flags.

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4. Rise Up – Platform Protection

Servicing HVAC systems and other sophisticated equipment may require workers to be further elevated from the rooftop to reach filters, controls, etc. Ladders can be cumbersome, unproductive, and unsafe on an icy roof or in windy conditions. A roof platform offers all the advantages of a guardrail system and an anti-slip walkway, enabling workers to perform their tasks more efficiently.

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5. Set for Lifelines – Personal Fall Arrest Protection

In situations where active personal fall protection is needed, a horizontal lifeline anchors the worker to the roof with sufficient range and freedom of movement and serves as a fall arrest system in case of a slip or fall. A horizontal lifeline can be installed on a membrane, structural, or sheet metal roof. It can be mounted overhead or to the side of a structure. It can also be used with a mobile roof anchor.

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Protect Your Protective Measures with Training

A rooftop presents fall hazards in nice weather. During the winter, employees and their supervisors must be properly trained to work at height. Although there is a wide range of certified courses available, two are especially helpful for the winter:

PFPE Competent Inspector Training – Designed for inspectors of fall protection equipment to identify defects and damage and take corrective action.

Harness & Lanyard – Designed to work specifically with harnesses and lanyards on rooftops, scaffolds, lifts, and other circumstances.

Canadian Winter Joke

Who is the first guest to crash the party and the last to leave? 

Old Man Winter.

So, be ready for this upcoming cold and blustery season with effective and regulatory-compliant fall protection systems for your rooftop.

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