Is Your Roof Safety System Adequate?

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.

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, then he will need to take someone to stay out there with him while he completes his repair work in order to keep with the ‘system of twos.’

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. Less People - No Need for the System of Twos

The benefit of guardrails is that one worker can go onto the roof alone without having a ‘system of twos.’ Guardrails require 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 2 users on site, but that depends on differing safety plans.

2. Less Time - Quick and Easy to Set Up

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. Guardrails require less time to set up.

3. Less Permanence - Non-Penetrating

If you have already gone through the trouble of training all of your workers on the lanyard system and want to switch to 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 switching to guardrails, 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 guardrails create a pleasing sightline for your roof.

All of our guardrails are non-penetrating and can be removed when necessary. We occasionally offer guardrails fastened into structure for custom projects however typically try to stick with non-penetrating due to its many advantages.

4. Less Involvement - No Need to Wear a Harness

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

Architectural guardrails are designed to be used for:

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

In fact, the IHSA gives a ranking for fall protection methods in order of importance. In their ranking system, 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.

5. Less Training - No Site-Specific Training Needed

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 individualised. Because of the training required for the lanyard systems for everyone who is going to use them, I would choose guardrails any day. Even rope grabs are tough--if you don’t have them positioned right. Any of these mentioned systems would require more training than guardrails.


In my books, guardrails surpass lanyards and other such systems due to the minimal amount of people, time, permanence, involvement and training required.

So, 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.