When do you need a roof walkway?
Australia takes workplace health and safety very seriously. With that in mind, it might surprise you to know that falls from a height routinely account for thousands of serious claims on a yearly basis, according to long-term data shared by Safe Work Australia.
Falls from heights harm employees and contractors, disrupt normal operations and can attract regulatory scrutiny. And, as the Working At Height Association explained, many of these falls occur not from high in the air, but in more mundane circumstances — specifically, within three metres of ground level.
Having the appropriate roof safety measures in place is vital to address these concerns. Here's when you should consider investing in roof walkway systems:
What does AS 1657 say?
The relevant compliance guidelines when it comes to working at height are contained in AS 1657. This standard deals with all aspects of choosing, designing and assessing the effectiveness of a variety of height safety equipment, including platforms, ladders, stairways and walkways.
Here are the key elements which pertain to walkways:
- Where external ladders are used to access a roof: These ladders should lead to a two-metre walkway equipped with handrails, which provides safe access to the roof and leads away from the edge.
- When there's risk of rolling or falling off of inclined walkways: Guardrails should be installed, even if the walkway is more than two metres away from an edge.
- Over brittle surfaces: For access over brittle surfaces, such as asbestos cement sheeting, AS 1657 requires walkways with guardrails that create a safe path.
- Where hazards exist: A more generalised requirement is made for guardrails to be put in place around any roof perimeter where fall hazards exist.
- Where staff work on an incline: AS 1657 demands walkways on an incline of 10 degrees or more use cleats as part of the walkway to help prevent the risks of slipping.
There's a lot to consider when implementing roof walkways to keep workers safe at heights and, as with most industrial compliance documents, AS 1657 is updated periodically. Staying on top of any new changes is key if you want to ensure site safety features are still offering your workers the protection they need.
How industrial roof walkways help manage and reduce risk
Safe Work Australia has produced a hierarchy of risk control to help those with a duty of care to understand how their efforts fit into standardised approaches to hazards:
- Level One: Total removal or elimination of the hazard.
- Level Two: Replacing the hazard with a safer alternative, controlling the risk through the use of site safety features or isolating people from it.
- Level Three: The use of personal protective equipment, such as fall prevention systems, or talking the team through ways to reduce risk.
As you go up the levels, the amount of protection for your workers decreases. When it comes to working on rooftops, the option of removing the hazard, as in Level One, isn't really applicable. If you have to access the roof, you have to have access to the roof. And that involves height.
The best practical safety measure you can offer to your employees, then, is provided through Level Two: reducing the risk through site engineering and implementing safe systems. This is where roof access walkways come in.
Features to look for in a roof walkway
Here a few key considerations when choosing a roof walkway:
- Strength: You need to know your safety equipment can deal with heavy loads, and isn't going to fail you at the crucial moment. The Monowills Link range from Webforge is made from galvanised steel, and all pipes, links and stanchions have tensile strengths exceeding 350 MPa. Our range of walkway systems includes both steel and aluminium options to address a wide variety of safety and operational needs.
- Traction: To avoid slips and trips that can lead to serious injuries when working at heights, your workers need to be able to keep their feet steady and on firm footing. While this is particularly important when working on an incline, providing the right slip-resistant tread on any walkway can go a long way to mitigating the risks.
- Drainage capabilities: The accumulation of rainwater, mud or other debris can make walkways unsafe, so ensuring yours provides easy drainage is key.
- Safety for those underneath: If there are sections of your walkway where personnel can pass underneath, you also need to consider their safety. AS 1657 states that overhead walkways should be able to prevent objects up to 15 millimetres from passing through them; this is known as the 15 mm ball test.
If you have any more questions on AS 1657, or what to consider when implementing roof walkways, get in touch with the team at Webforge today. With over 70 years of experience in metal manufacturing, we're ready to work with you to tailor our aluminium walkways and many other options to the specifications of your site.