Roof free-standing guardrail regulations simplified

roof freestanding guardrail regulations

When selecting roof fall protection guardrail systems, the number of regulations, standards and guidance documents can cause confusion. Which is correct? Hopefully this guide will make things a little clearer.

Regulations and standards

The following regulations, standards and guidance documents often cause confusion when it comes to specifying guardrails, as many require different load and testing criteria. In addition, there isn’t a specific regulation or standard relating to cantilevered or free-standing guardrails which can be used as both temporary and permanent solutions.

The Building Regulations Part K 2013

EN 13374 Temporary Edge Protection Systems – Product Specification, Test Methods 2013.

EN 14122-3 Safety of machinery. Permanent means of access to machinery, stairways, stepladders and guardrails 2010

The Work at Height Regulations 2005

Workplace Health Safety & Welfare Regulations 1992

BS 6180 Protective Barriers In and About Buildings 1999

HSE Specialist Inspectors Report No 15 1987

Eurocode 1 EN 1991-1-1 supersedes BS 6399 Part 1 Loading for Building 1996

Eurocode 1 EN 1991-1-4 supersedes BS 6399 Part 2 Code of Practice for Wind Loading 1997

Construction Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1996

HSE Health & Safety in Roofwork 2012

The following are the main areas you should refer to when specifying a guardrail system.

Building Regulations Part K (Protection from falling)

Part K2 of the Building Regulations requires guarding to be provided where there are:

Any stairs, ramps, floors (which form part of the building) and balconies and any roof to which people have access to and Any light well, basement area or similar sunken area connected to a building

KeeGuard freestanding handrail

Guarding such as edge protection must consist of at least two horizontal rails and have a minimum height of 1100mm. The loading criteria is taken from Euro Code 1 EN 1991-1-1 & its UK National Annex (PD 6688.1.1) and requires the guardrail to withstand a uniformly distributed load of 1.0kN per m2 and a point load of 0.5kN.

Conversely, Part K has a specific heading under the application section, “Interaction with other legislation ” which relaxes the suggested loadings where the frequency of access is low and controlled. Clause 0.6 states, “However, there may well be particular situations, such as access for maintenance required less frequently than once a month…where such permanent features may be less appropriate. Where this may be the case the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 provides details on procedures for safe use of temporary means of access, together with focus on effective planning and management of risk.” The Building Regulations also make reference to the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The above referral to the CDM Regulations requires a risk assessment to be made to ensure that the guardrail is suitable and sufficient to prevent both persons and objects from falling.

Roof edge protection

EN 13374

This standard, most commonly used in the UK for the specification of roof fall protection barriers, relates to the design of temporary edge protection systems and requires a system to withstand loads applied perpendicular, horizontal and vertical to the system. This standard was initially introduced in 1997 and replaced the UK HSE Specialist Inspectors Report No 15 1987 and other European Standards. EN 13374 has recently been revised by Technical Committee 53, Working Group 10 (TC53/WG10) following discussions about changing the title of this European Norm to accommodate permanent counter balanced systems. Unfortunately the change never occurred, however, in the UK National Forward there is clear reference to include such permanent counter balanced systems.

EN 13374 outlines requirements for three classes of edge protection system.

Class A 0-10° roof pitch

Class B 10-30° roof pitch

Class C 30-45° roof pitch

All classes have a static load requirement, and class B & C also have a dynamic load applied representing someone rolling down the roof slope and making contact with the edge protection system.

Under Clause 7.3 friction or counterbalanced systems should be tested at the maximum inclination, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The performance will vary according to the roof pitch, base material (wet or dry) and whether or not there is an up stand (restraint/roof edge) present. It is important that the manufacturer of a Roof Guardrail system must demonstrate compliance to this standard by testing the variations, e.g. roof pitch and membrane type, where they claim their products can be installed on.

Eurocode 1: Actions on Structures – Part 1-4: General Actions – Wind Loads.

When edge protection is installed as a permanent systems, it should comply with appropriate wind loading criteria as outlined in Part 1-4 of Eurocode 1: Actions on Structures.

Although EN 13374 now includes a degree of wind loading assessment it has become clear that wind loading is a far more onerous force than that of a person falling against a guardrail. As a result any professional manufacturer should provide a wind design for each and every installation dependent upon the topography, height of building and geographical location.

EN 14122-3

Confusion relating to the standards and their relevance has led to some companies commissioning independent assessment and testing by institutions, such as, ”The British Board of Agrément.”

Where there are no specific standards relating to a product, it is essential to establish the product is “fit for the intended use.” In situations such as this, some European authorities have applied standards such as EN 14122-3 Safety of machinery. Permanent means of access to machinery, stairways, stepladders and guardrails 2010.

While this standard does provide a uniformly distributed load and a deflection criteria it is intended for guardrails around plant and machinery, it was widely adopted in the UK as the applicable standard for many years in lieu of an alternative. As it does not refer to roof pitch, roof membrane, wet or dry conditions, up stand details or toe-board requirement and so is less appropriate for edge protection specification on roofs. That said it is possible to configure free-standing Guardrails to meet the loadings of EN14122-3 by limiting the maximum roof pitch to less than 3 degrees and using additional counter-balance weights and the manufacturer providing testing in both the wet and dry.

Work at Height Regulations

Introduced in 2005 the Work at Height Regulations require all those that have a duty of care to ensure that work at height is carried out safely with the implementation of a Risk Assessment. Solutions need to be suitable and sufficient to ensure prevention of both persons and objects from falling.

These Regulations revoked Regulation 13 of the Workplace Health Safety & Welfare Regulations 1992 and Regulations 6-8 of the Construction Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1996.

In relation to Schedule 2 of the Regulations, “Construction Work” (Temporary provisions of protection) states that the top guardrail or other similar means of protection must be at least 950mm high. Toe boards should be suitable and sufficient to prevent the fall of any person, or any material or object, from any place of work. The intermediate guardrail or similar means of protection must be positioned so that any gap between it and other means of protection does not exceed 470mm.

Permanent protection barriers need to be suitable and sufficient and must comply with the Building Regulations Part K criteria in relation to height. As a result, the 470mm gap stipulation would not be possible to achieve. However, if the “existing place of work” becomes “Construction Work” then the Work at Height Regulations would take precedence so you would need to consider toe boards and further intermediate guardrails in order to comply with the 470mm gap.

In conclusion

To correctly specify a fall protection guardrail system, there needs to be a clear understanding of the various standards and regulations in order to specify a system that is fit for purpose. Incorrect specification could be fatal.

Always request manufacturers test reports as well as data to demonstrate that the system is suitable for the intended use including the roof pitch, membrane type, both wet and dry performance and state whether the system was tested with or without an up stand.

A risk assessment should also be completed in order to determine if the product is fit for use. If guardrails are to be used in a permanent application at 1100mm high, it may be appropriate to adopt the loading criteria of EN 13374 in relation to the frequency of access and other controls that are in place.

The risk assessment will determine whether it is necessary to use toe-boards (kick plates) or include a 470mm gap between principal/intermediate guardrails. Roof loadings may also influence the decision, with EN13374-A being the most appropriate as the roof may not be able to cope with the higher loadings suggested in the Building Regulations or other standards relating to permanent systems.

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