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5 quick thoughts on safe Roof Access

Admit it: you don’t go there often!

The roof, that is. Usually it is out of sight and out of mind. It is not until there is a problem or service workers need access to plant items that you realise the importance of safe access.

When items such as air conditioners fail, it is imperative that tradespersons can get up there quickly and safely. This is when a well-designed service access system is essential.

When designing or choosing the placement of walkways, here are five things to consider:

1 – People
Think of your service personnel. They spend many hours on the roof and will often have to get up and down many times, usually laden with heavy or cumbersome equipment. Safety line systems can be awkward and slow. Easy access, planned with service people specifically in mind, will help them work more efficiently and get the job done quicker.

2 – Heavy loads
Tools and heavy equipment are often required. Tradespersons weighed down with gear will quickly damage your roof if proper load-bearing walkways are not installed. These should be loaded back to the purlins so that the roof membrane is not damaged and the access is safe.

3 - Location, location
Consider the placement of walkways. Make sure they are installed in the most appropriate locations so they are actually used. Often we see ‘service tracks’ where service personnel have taken the shortest route. This is often in the form of damage to your roof. We have seen new roofs buckled with boot-prints.

4 – Getting up there
Make sure the access from ground level to your walkway is practical. Hauling gear up ladders is both dangerous and time-consuming. Stairs, while initially costing more, are a good long-term investment and will result in better servicing of your rooftop equipment. If roof hatches are required, allow sufficient room for drop-down stairs and for equipment.

5 – Know the rules
Many roof access walkways are non-compliant due to poor planning, or incorrect design and placement. When looking to install a walkway,
– Know where the substructures or purlins are located.
– Consider the pitch of the roof: if it is over 7 degrees, walkways need to be levelled to be compliant.
– Handrails must be provided if you are within 2m of a roof edge. This also applies to access ladders : you must provide handrails each side for a distance of 2m from a fall hazard.
– Finally – and this point is often missed – a walkway must be designed to 2.5kpa loadings, as per AS1657 - 2013.

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