Published on: April 24, 2023
Rooftop Workers & Their Safety
Numerous industries require employees to work on rooftops. Some common examples are:
- Construction workers install roofing materials and repair damaged roofs.
- Workers in the solar panel industry access roofs to install solar panels.
- Building maintenance personnel are required to inspect and repair the roofs of various residential and commercial buildings.
- HVAC maintenance workers climb roofs to install, inspect, or service heating and cooling equipment.
- Workers in the telecommunication industry get on the rooftops to install and maintain telecommunication equipment.
- Industrial rooftops may also contain numerous plants, equipment, systems, and structures that need regular inspection and maintenance.
The Common Fall Hazards on Rooftops
Falls from elevated spaces are among the leading causes of workplace injuries and deaths, mainly in the construction industry. Such falls are not just devastating for the victims and their families; they also lead to numerous operational, financial, and legal costs for the company, including fines and legal fees, medical expenses, disability claims, insurance premiums, and more.
Some factors that increase the risk of falls for people working on the rooftops include the presence of unprotected edges and trip hazards, like pipes, vents, skylights, and fragile or slippery surfaces. Roofs with variable heights and areas that suddenly rise and fall also lead to poor foot balance. Moreover, old and damaged roofs featuring cracks, soft spots, and loose materials double the risk of falls.
Considering the risks above, companies must implement high-quality fall protection systems to keep employees safe while they work on the roofs. Some common fall protection systems are guardrails and horizontal lifelines.
What Are Rooftop Horizontal Lifelines?
Rooftop horizontal lifelines are a common fall restraint and arrest system that allows workers to move and work freely on rooftops without worrying about falling. They not only restrain workers from moving close to unprotected edges through a personal tie-off method but also reduce the impact of force if a worker falls.
Horizontal lifelines are highly versatile; their use is not just restricted to the roofs. You can position them in the following ways:
- At the base of an elevated structure, like a roof
- Overhead of an elevated structure (commonly used for railcar and truck loading or unloading tasks)
- Somewhere between the overhead and the base of an elevated structure, like in a crane rail application
Components of Rooftop Horizontal Lifelines
A typical rooftop horizontal lifeline consists of the following components:
They are the two endpoints where the lifeline is fixed and tensioned to the roof structure. These points must be strong enough to support the loads applied to the lifeline.
Lifeline is the primary part of the rooftop horizontal lifeline system. It is basically a flexible cable or rope that runs between the anchorage points, designed to support the weight of a worker in the event of a fall.
This device is used to sustain the tension in the lifeline so that it can easily support the loads that will be applied to it. If the lifeline isn’t properly tensioned, the worker might hit the ground before the system arrests the fall.
Personal Protective Equipment
The workers attach themselves to the rooftop horizontal lifeline system with a fixed-length or a self-retracting lanyard while wearing a full-body harness.
They are the means used to attach the lifeline to the anchorage points and other parts of the fall protection system.
They are the supporting anchors fixed between the endpoints to the posts of the building. They are needed when the rooftop is too huge for just two endpoint anchorages. The users don’t have to disconnect themselves whenever they need to pass someone on the lifeline; they can smoothly move over intermediate anchors with the help of a specially machined trolley.
Benefits of Rooftop Horizontal Lifelines
Here are the major benefits of using a horizontal lifeline on rooftops as a fall protection system.
With a rooftop horizontal lifeline, workers can freely move along the cable’s length, allowing them to perform their work tasks more efficiently.
The lifeline provides a secure anchor point for workers to attach their fall protection equipment which restrains them from reaching too close to the edges. Even if a worker falls, the horizontal lifeline stops the fall safely and prevents serious injuries.
Rooftop horizontal lifelines can be customized to fit the specific needs of a work site and can be easily adjusted or removed as needed. Plus, they are typically made from lightweight materials, like aluminum or fiberglass, which makes them easy to install and handle. You can use them along with other fall protection equipment, like guardrails or safety netting, to provide full-spectrum protection to your workers.
A rooftop horizontal lifeline doesn’t involve heavy or complex components. Therefore, setting it up on a rooftop can be more cost-effective than installing other fall protection systems like guardrails.
A major reason for the popularity of a horizontal lifeline is its simplicity. Trained professionals can quickly and easily install this fall protection system. Moreover, its installation doesn’t cause a lot of disruption to work activities, unlike the installation of rigid rails, catwalks, stairways, etc.
Rooftop horizontal lifelines are designed to be long-lasting and durable, but their lifespan depends on various factors, like the quality of the materials used, the frequency of use, and the maintenance and inspection practices in place.
You must follow proper installation and maintenance procedures to ensure the lifeline stays in good working condition. This means it is important to regularly inspect the lifeline for signs of damage or wear and replace any damaged components as needed.
Rooftop horizontal lifelines by Flexible Lifeline Systems are made from high-quality materials resistant to corrosion and wear, ensuring their longevity. Want to know more about them? Feel free to talk to our fall protection experts.