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How to Provide Safe Work Access to Commercial Rooftops

Posted by Art Valentz on June 16, 2021

As all commercial building managers know, providing safe and reliable rooftop access is imperative to ensure that any equipment stored in this area is properly maintained. Accessing this equipment is often easier said than done, however. Without proper planning, you may encounter multiple safety and logistical issues. The best way to ensure easy rooftop access for workers and all personnel is to invest in a complete rooftop access system—including stairs, platforms, and crossovers—all of which work together to create an ideal rooftop solution that protects your equipment and roof as well as workers.

What is the Most Important Equipment to Provide with Roof Access?

A commercial roof is a large, flat open space that’s hard to see from the ground below. Therefore, it’s the perfect place to put large, noisy, and otherwise unsightly rooftop equipment—out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, what’s out of sight and out of mind might also be very difficult to access when it needs maintenance and repairs.

Some of this equipment is vital to the ongoing operations of the commercial building. Some of it is less so. What equipment will be your highest priority in terms of roof access?

  •   Pipes and Electrical Cables

Your tenants will be very uncomfortable without electricity or running water. Ideally you should position your pipes and cable runs to go alongside your roof access walkways, allowing workers to access their entire length without directly contacting the roof surface.

  •   HVAC and Ducts

Similarly, your tenants will be very uncomfortable if they don’t have heat during the winter or cold air during the summer. HVAC ducts should be found alongside cable runs where possible, and HVAC pumps themselves should be placed on equipment platforms and accessed via stairs.

  •   Elevator Equipment

If yours is a multi-story building, chances are it will have an elevator. (Accessibility requirements mandate elevators for buildings with more than two stories, with more than 3,000 sf per floor, and for those with medical offices or retail stores.) Elevator machine rooms are commonly placed on the rooftop, which means that they also require roof access.

In short, your commercial roof is likely to be crowded with all kinds of equipment designed to keep tenants powered, heated, and mobile. Adding rooftop access is essential when it comes to keeping this equipment running. What’s the best way to make sure that maintenance personnel can access this equipment?

Best Practices for Rooftop Access

Here are the ground rules (for the roof). Periodically, contractors will need to visit your rooftop to either maintain equipment, inspect equipment, or repair equipment. To make their lives easier, comply with OSHA regulations, and protect your roof, you should provide the following kind of access.

  •   When possible, roof equipment should be at least six feet distant from the roof edge. This keeps workers safe without forcing them to follow the OSHA-mandated requirements for safety harnesses and other protective gear.
  •   If it’s not possible or practical to have equipment located away from the roof edge, the business should provide an elevated walkway with railings. This dramatically increases worker safety and shields your business from liability.
  •   At all times, workers should be discouraged from directly walking on the roof surface. Alternatives, such as elevated roof walkways with non-penetrating applications , should be employed to provide a safety system that protects both the roof surface and the people walking above it.

To summarize, the best way to protect your roof, your equipment, and your workers is to create a holistic system of rooftop access walkways, equipment platforms, stairs, and crossovers. This will let your workers get where they need to go without any danger to themselves or to the rooftop surface. This is a critical consideration. Workers on the roof surface are at higher risk of tripping and falling, but providing a walkway with handrails minimizes this risk. A custom-designed system, such as the ones offered by PHP Systems/Design, will make any roof safer and more accessible, making it easier for workers to maintain and repair the critical systems that keep your building and your tenants comfortable.

Topics: Roof Safety

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