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The defensive backfield of a football team often employs a “zone defense” to counter the offense’s passing game. Every defender has an assigned area on the field to protect against any receiver daring to encroach upon their territory.
Every building with a flat or low-sloped roof—notably commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities—has its own areas to protect. The zone defense is also used, but not based on a football coach calling a play. Regulatory bodies have standards and guidelines to protect workers whenever they access the roof.
Depending on the down, field position, and score, a coach might use any number of defensive backs in its zone defense. On a roof, there are three specific zones.
Zone 1: If workers are within 1.8m of the roof edge or roof opening (e.g., skylight, roof hatch), employers must provide either a perimeter guardrail, safety net, travel restraint system, or a personal fall arrest system (PFAS).
Zone 2: Between 1.8m and 4.6m, protective measures for Zone 1 should be used. However, the employer may establish and mark a “designated area” when the work is both infrequent (monthly or quarterly) and temporary (one or two hours on average).
Zone 3: Beyond 4.6m for infrequent and temporary work, a designated area is sufficient, but workers must be trained not to cross into Zone 2 or Zone 1 without proper safeguards.
A guardrail system is considered the best way to protect workers from falling over the edge of a roof because it is always in place and requires no special training. A perimeter safety railing is a “collective” system because it protects all workers on the roof at once.
If a guardrail system is not installed, workers coming into Zone 1 or Zone 2 can be protected by a travel restraint system or personal fall protection, such as a harness with a lanyard and anchorage.
A horizontal lifeline serves as both a travel restraint system and PFAS. A versatile horizontal lifeline will have anchors available for membrane, structural, and standing seam roofs and anchors that attach to structures or overhead. The lifeline systems can be configured to accommodate more than one worker at a time.
For Zone 2 and Zone 3, an employer can establish a designated area for infrequent and temporary work. Simple signage may come to mind; however, a warning line system should come to the forefront. It should have stable bases with brightly marked warning lines that cordon off the designated area effectively.
A football team with a terrific zone defense can shut down the opposition and win the game. Yet, the other team can have a superior passing attack, overcome the defender’s strategy, and win instead.
An employer with a compliant zone defense for roof edges ensures that the company and its workers are always winners when it comes to rooftop safety.
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