Australia takes workplace health and safety very seriously, so it might surprise you to know that there are still an average of 7,000 injury claims per year as a result of falls from height, according to the Working At Height Association.
With an average return to work time of 7.4 weeks, and cost of $14,000 per claim, these kinds of accidents can seriously impact the operations of a business. Having the appropriate safety measures in place is vital.
Here's when you should consider investing in a rooftop walkway.
1. What does AS 1657 say?
The relevant compliance guidelines when it comes to working at height are contained in AS 1657. This document deals with all aspects of choosing, designing and assessing the effectiveness of a variety of height related site 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 - They should lead to a two metre walkway equipped with handrails, that leads away from the edge of the roof.
- When there's risk of falling off inclined walkways and rolling - Guardrails should be installed, even if the walkway is more than 2 metre's distance from an edge.
- Over brittle surfaces - For access over brittle surfaces, such as asbestos cement sheeting, AS 1657 requires walkways with guardrails.
- Where hazards exist - A more generalised requirement is made for guardrails to be put in place around any roof perimeter where fall hazards exist.
- Working on an incline - AS 1657 demands walkways on an incline of 10º or more to use cleats to help prevent the risks of slipping.
There's a lot to consider when implementing rooftop walkways 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.
2. How industrial rooftop walkways help manage eliminate risk
SafeWorkAustralia 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 risks through the use of site safety features, or isolating people from it.
- Level Three - The use of personal protective equipment (P.P.E.), or talking through ways to reduce risk to the team.
As you go up the levels, the amount of protection for your workers decreases.
It's often impossible to avoid working at height, so it's up to you to find ways to reduce this risk.
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, therefore, falls within Level Two - reducing the risk through site engineering. This is where rooftop walkways come in.
3. Features to look for in a rooftop walkway
Here a few key considerations when choosing a rooftop 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 from Webforge is made from galvanised steel, and all pipes, links and stanchions have tensile strengths exceeding 350 MPa.
- Traction: To avoid slips and trips that can lead to serious injuries when working at height, your workers need to be able to keep their feet. While this is particularly important when working on an incline, providing the right tread on any walkway can go a long way to mitigating the risks.
- Drainage capabilities: Accumulations 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 mm 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 top walkways, get in touch with the team at Webforge today. We have over 70 years experience manufacturing metal flooring and other products, and will work with you to tailor our output to the specifications of your site.