Frequently asked questions about guardrail
Posted 20 Mar 2019
According to the work at height hierarchy of controls, collective fall protection systems such as guardrail are preferable to personal systems such as lifelines and harnesses.
Though guardrailing might seem like a simple matter to those who never have to think about it, it can actually be very complex, with guardrail available in many different types meeting different legal standards.
If selecting the correct guardrail is your responsibility and you find yourself out of your depth, you can use our frequently asked questions guide to clear up some of the mystery and ensure you select the right system for your needs.
Remember: there is no substitute for talking to a product expert. For more information on guardrail systems, or any fall protection advice, call us on 01473 834 144.
Does my guardrail always need to be fitted on the edge of the roof?
Not always. Though you will often find guardrails referred to as ‘edge protection’, and the logical place to install it might be the edge of the roof, your guardrail positioning will always be dictated by the individual requirements of your roof.
Guardrails should be positioned around the perimeter of where roof work may need to be carried out - allowing for unrestricted access to the gutter or for unforeseen maintenance - however it is not always possible to cover the entire perimeter. In these cases, you can position your guardrail around the main work areas, such as around plant and air conditioning units, to provide safe access for routine maintenance at the very least.
Guardrail can also be used around roof hatches and other entries to the roof to provide safe access.
However, it is important to remember that the areas outside of the guardrail perimeter will not be protected and other provisions will need to be made when work is carried out.
Requirements can vary wildly from roof, and the methods required will change depending on the type of access required, so you should always carry out a full risk assessment and seek out the advice of a competent expert in the form of a survey.
What is the legally required height for guardrail?
Guardrail, such as our KeeGuard system, will be manufactured to a standard minimum height, specified at 1100mm. However, as with the location of the guardrail, this can depend on the roof type and the specific requirements of that roof.
The most common standard used when specifying rooftop guardrails is EN13374, which stipulates that temporary edge protection systems must be at least 1m high when perpendicular to the roof surface, and the gap in the system must not exceed 470mm.
Where there is no upstand of at least 150mm at the edge, a toe board should be included.
Can I fold guardrail down?
It is possible to use guardrail which can be folded away when not in use, usually to preserve the aesthetics of the building.
If you do use folding guardrail, we would advise positioning it at least 1m or more from the roof edge, leaving a safe demarcation zone to raise the system. We don’t advise raising the system at the roof edge without additional safety controls.
Does my guardrail need to be fixed permanently to the roof?
This can depend on a number of factors, including the type of your roof, pitch, location and the type of access required. Freestanding guardrail would be the preferred option wherever possible as it overcomes the need to physically fix the systems to the roof’s structure or membrane, which could lead to leaks and costly repairs over time.
However, all guardrails should be manufactured and installed to the specified standard, and should always meet load criteria. As a rule, correctly installed guardrail should not move with human interaction.
Do I need to have my guardrail inspected?
Absolutely. Guardrailing, and fall protection equipment in general, should be inspected annually by a competent professional.
People often assume that due to having fewer moving parts compared to lifelines, there is no chance of failure. This is untrue, and guardrail systems are as prone to failure as any other system if not properly maintained.
Regulation 5 of the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations, the Work at Height Regulations and BS EN 395 state that equipment should be maintained and inspected regularly by a competent person, and this includes guardrail.
Though we advise having guardrail properly inspected annually, we also suggest that inspections are performed more frequently in harsh environments, such as on coastal roofs.
If you have any questions about guardrail, inspection and recertification, or the solutions we offer, call us or use our online contact form.