Designing roofs with safety in mind

Making roofs safer places.

The roofing industry and BRE are teaming up to assess the safety problems posed by current roof designs and the possible solutions.
Project Objectives
  • To develop a radical approach to the design of roofs with safety at the core rather than as at present adding bolt-on extras to enable safe work on an existing waterproofing focused roof design.
  • To provide a good and achievable exemplar of introducing safety at the design stage that could be used as a template for guidance in other areas.
figure 1

Consider Figure 1 above, this example of a typical flat roof which is over 10 stories high has a number of issues regarding safety that could have been avoided had the roof been designed differently and with safety in mind. Installers have to be at the edge of the roof for longer to construct the drainage channel and attempt to waterproof the pipe penetration. Maintenance is going to be needed again exposing the maintenance contractor to unnecessary risk at the edge of the roof. Practical guidance with safety in mind at the design stage would have avoided the risks and reduced the cause for an accident or fatal fall.

There are a continuing number of fatalities caused by falls from roofs and working at height. There are a number of sources of design guidance and best practice for roofing within the industry. These were written with successful waterproofing in mind and not with the safety of installation or with safe maintenance necessary for continued trouble free roofs. There is therefore plenty of scope to produce practical guidance for the design of safer roofs.

The project is proposing a truly novel and radical approach to safety, it is not simply introducing safety measures (safe access etc.) to a roof design but completely changing the approach to safety and roofing where safety is at the core of the design, perhaps even reducing the need for the bolt-on extras required to make a conventional roof design safe. The existing guidance such as that to be published shortly by The Advisory Committee for Roofwork would still be relevant but perhaps less critical as this project will add an additional layer of safety on roofs (i.e. at the design stage).

This project is specifically aimed at both flat and pitched roofing. Our experience of the roofing industry indicates that such specific guidance is required to allow the industry to understand the approach and wholly appreciate it's significant advantages. However this project will be a good and achievable exemplar of introducing safety at the design stage and could be used as a template for guidance in other areas.