Whether it’s the wrong choice of equipment or installation issues, height safety mistakes are all-too common. Here’s what to spot in the quest to prevent rooftop accidents:
- Poor height safety system design
Designing a robust height safety system takes experience, a full understanding of Australian Standards, and a commitment to rooftop worker safety above all else. Poor design leads to non-compliance and worse – an unsafe working environment. Common mistakes include:
- Incorrect spacing between roof anchor points which prevents rope from reaching the next anchor point.
- Anchors out of pendulum reducing practicality and performance
- Failure to consider the pitch of the roof and whether it warrants a fall protection system.
- Failure to provide safe access between varying roof heights such as mini access ladders. This makes it unsafe to move between roofs and can damage roof sheets when personnel jump from one to another.
- Incorrect calculation of risks
Height safety is calculated according to a hierarchy of controls, and if this is not done properly, your system design is likely to be lacking. Here’s how it works. In every safety situation you look to eliminate the hazard first. Then you provide a prevention system (such as walkways and guardrails), then you provide administration controls (such as anchor points and ladder brackets), and only then do you measure the risk according to how often personnel will be on the roof.
- Non-conformance to Australian Standards
It seems blindingly obvious, but conformance to Australian Standards is non-negotiable. The worst possible scenario is engaging a height safety company and still ending up with a non-compliant system. Make sure you fully explore your provider’s understanding of and commitment to standards and safety.
Some height safety systems have glaring gaps which means rooftop workers don’t have everything they need to operate safely. For example, specifying a fall arrest system where an abseil system is actually required.
- Quality that doesn’t match requirements
Cutting corners using low quality products doesn’t pay off. For example, some anchor points are made from inferior stainless steel and aluminium that rusts easily. A good quality anchor will be made from 316 stainless steel, not 304. On the flipside, we’ve also seen imported products that were over-engineered and not a good fit for Australian roof environments. Although high quality and expensive, they didn’t provide good value either.
- Installation issues
Even the best-designed system can fall down if installation is under par. Using an unqualified or inexperienced installer is the biggest issue to avoid. The most common consequence here is too much product being installed – or worse, not enough. Or, products are installed incorrectly, such as ladder brackets installed above six metres high, which is underspecified and non-compliant with Australian Standards.