May 7, 2018

Active vs Passive Fall Protection – Five Reasons I Would Choose Rooftop Guardrails

Roof Safety and OSHA Fall Protection Standards: Which method is best?

You are smelling the first signs of actual spring. You jump in the car and head to the office. You think through your whole list for the day. Then you remember that you have a contractor coming up to perform your routine HVAC system check-up. You wonder if your current roof safety systems will be enough. Are you fully compliant with OSHA standards for fall protection?

Do you ever think about what it would feel like to be that contractor? He will come to your building, find the guy who will teach him how to use your specific Personal Fall Arrest System, and require someone to stay with him while he completes his repair work in order to keep with the “system of twos.” Is there a way this kind of hassle could be eliminated?

Rooftop guardrails vs. fall arrest system? The question arises, “Active or passive fall protection – which one is best?” This can be confusing. What warrants a need for active fall protection? When is passive fall protection “enough”?

If you are a consultant, project manager or operations manager and are looking for roof safety systems, here are five reasons for choosing rooftop guardrails.

Five Reasons I Would Choose Rooftop Guardrails

1. Rooftop guardrails eliminate the need for “system of twos”

The benefit of rooftop guardrails is that one worker can go onto the roof alone without having a “system of twos.” Guardrail installation requires less people to be on-site at any given time. You can easily just use one person to be on-site and do the work. You can just send him up to the roof by himself to get the work done without having to find him a buddy. Some companies still encourage or mandate two users on-site (we always have at least a 2 man crew for any installations), but that depends on differing safety plans.

2. Guardrail installation is Quick and Easy

Here at W.S. Safety, one of our main tenets is to help alleviate the pain points of availability and ease of use. SafetyRail 2000, for example, is quick and easy to set up.

If you have already spent your safety budget for this year, send us a quick request for a quote anyways. This will give you an idea of how much you would need to put in your budget for next year. We try to get back to the requests within 24 hours. A non-penetrating guardrail requires less time to set up.

3. Non-penetrating guardrails are not permanent

If you have already gone through the trouble of training all of your workers on the lanyard system and want to switch to rooftop guardrails, it may feel like a whirlwind of Health and Safety work–switching from one system to another and finding the time to do so.

When considering guardrail installation, one essential factor to consider is “penetrating” or “non-penetrating.” The first comes with holes that need to be drilled into the roof. The other sits on top of the roof with weighted bases. One effective and eye-pleasing option for guardrails is the SafetyRail 2000 – Architectural Series. These non-permanent safety guardrails create a pleasing sightline for your roof. Our Tech-Rail system offers the same advantages but with a mill finish aluminum appearance and the ability to place the rail system closer to the edge.

All of our roof safety railings are non-penetrating and can be removed when necessary. We occasionally offer rooftop guardrails fastened into structures for custom projects; however, we typically try to stick with non-penetrating guardrails due to their many advantages.

4. Roof safety railings = no need for a harness

Rooftop guardrails require you to be less closely associated with your roof safety system. Instead of using a harness and lanyard system, or using a rope grab (as some do for sloped roofs)where you also must wear a harness, rooftop guardrails allow for less involvement on your part. You just have to walk out onto the roof, do your work and walk back inside.

Architectural guardrails are designed to be used for:

  • New building construction
  • Adding passive fall protection to an existing building or structure
  • An addition to existing guardrails

In fact, the IHSA gives a ranking for fall protection methods in order of importance. In their ranking system, safety guardrails rank second on the hierarchical list of six roof safety systems. According to the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, fall protection methods start with “hazard elimination” and end with the most involved system being the “safety net.” The fall arrest system or “Personal Fall Arrest System,” ranks all the way down at fifth. In other words, installing a non-penetrating guardrail is one of the top ways to ensure rooftop safety and compliance with OSHA rules around fall restraint.

5. Safety guardrails do not require specific training

When using the lanyard system, you have to have people who have been trained to use it properly. On one site, it is even mentioned that the harnesses used on their horizontal lifeline system need to be sized and set up for each individual. Because of the training required for the lanyard systems for everyone who is going to use them, I would choose safety guardrails like the SafetyRail 2000 any day. Even rope grabs are tough–if you don”t have them positioned correctly. Any of these mentioned systems would require more training than rooftop guardrails.

Rooftop guardrails are an easy way to comply with OSHA fall restraint standards.

In my books, safety guardrails surpass lanyards and other such systems due to the minimal amount of people, time, permanence, involvement and training required. The SafetyRail 2000 is a perfect choice and an easy, non-permanent way to ensure compliance with OSHA fall protection standards.

So the next time you’re on your way home from work, eager to fire up the barbeque after a long day, take a minute to look back at your building and ask yourself, “Which roof safety system should I choose for my next job?” Architectural Rooftop Guardrails might be first on your list.

This article is based on the research and opinion of the writer and should not be used as legal advice.

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