BS 13700:2021 - Understanding the new guardrail standard

In July 2021, a new regulation that dictates the standard for freestanding permanent railing came into effect. BS 13700:2021 refers to all counterweighed roof guardrails and covers aspects such as designing, testing, maintaining and inspecting these types of systems.

What does the new standard (BS 13700:2021) mean for you?

Here are the answers to some of the questions you might have around the new legislation. We hope these will be helpful for you.

example of permanent roof edge protection system

1. What is the purpose of BS 13700:2021? Why the need for a new standard?

BS 13700:2021 is the first standard to specifically provide guidance for permanent counter-balanced edge protection used for the life expectancy of the facility (compared to it being used temporarily).

Until now, permanent freestanding guardrail systems were not covered by a specific standard. Instead, guidance was taken from standards that referred to guardrails used temporarily.

When the initial standards for freestanding railing were put together, there was an understanding that this type of guardrail was only going to be used temporarily. However, due to its benefits (especially the fact that it doesn’t penetrate the roof), freestanding guardrails have started to be installed as permanent solutions.

Bearing this in mind, it is fair to say that there was a general confusion around which standard applies to permanent counterbalanced edge protection that is not physically connected to the building. This is why an appropriate standard to remove current ambiguity was needed and this is how BS 13700:2021 was born.

This new standard brings clarity and consistency for the manufacturer, designer, duty holder and recertification technician and ensures that these safety-critical edge protection systems are designed, installed, inspected, and maintained to the highest standard.

2. What aspects does the new standard cover?

The new standard addresses:

  • How permanent freestanding guardrails should be manufactured and tested
  • How often recertification for each system needs to occur and what it needs to include
  • Details on the obligatory site-specific wind calculations for the system.

3. Does the new standard make EN 13374 redundant?

No. EN 13374 refers to guardrails used as temporary solutions. The new standard refers to freestanding guardrails used as permanent solutions.

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4. What standards were used to refer to permanent freestanding guardrail before BS 13700?

Before, a combination of standards was used when talking about permanent freestanding guardrails. This is because a specific standard for freestanding roof edge protection used permanently did not exist.

Here are the main standards used as guidance in the past for these systems:

  • EN 13374 is a standard for temporary roof edge protection, rather than permanent rails. Why this standard is not relevant for permanent systems anymore:
    • It does not specify the correct height criteria of 1100mm for permanent products
    • The wind loading specified in this standard is not appropriate for all sites (such as the ones in North London).

  • Building Regulations Part K (Protection from falling) - these require guarding to be provided in various situations. Find Document K here

  • Eurocode 1: Actions on Structures – Part 1-4: General Actions – Wind Loads. Find out more here

  • EN 14122-3 standard, which is intended for guardrails around plant and machinery. Find out more about EN 14122-3 here

  • 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.

Read more about each regulation and standard in one of our older blog posts, Roof free-standing guardrail regulations simplified.

5. When was BS 13700: 2021 released?

July 2021.

permanent freestanding roof guardrail

6. I already have a permanent freestanding guardrail system installed on my roof. Is it compliant with the new standard?

  • If the system was installed before July 2021, you will not know for sure whether the system is compliant with BS 13700: 2021. The new standard recommends that all systems installed prior to this date be retrospectively checked to verify that the original design complies with the new standard. You would need to get in touch with a competent person who will inspect the system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Any permanent freestanding guardrail system installed after July 2021 needs to be compliant with BS 13700: 2021. Get in touch with your supplier to ensure that this is happening.

7. I just found out that the permanent freestanding guardrail system on my roof is not compliant with the new standard. Whose fault is it?

Before anything else, you as a customer will need to tell your supplier what the purpose of the system is (will it be used as roof guardrail or will it be installed around machinery?) and whether this will be used as a permanent or temporary solution. This will dictate what standard it needs to adhere to.

If the guardrail is designed to be used as roof edge protection and installed permanently, then it will likely need to adhere to BS 13700, in particular the annual recertification and recommended retrospective wind speed calculation.

We recommend you contact your supplier and request an annual recertification to BS 13700 to ensure the system is fit for purpose; this may include the requirement to upgrade the system to ensure compliance.

If the freestanding guardrail was installed before the new standard came into existence, then it would be your responsibility as a building owner, health and safety manager etc to have the system checked for compliance. Simplified Safety can offer an inspection and recertification service - further details are available upon request.

8. What will happen during the inspection of my existing freestanding guardrail system?

The inspection will include the following checks:

  • System information
  • Whether the system was modified in an authorised way or if components are missing
  • Correct height
  • Whether it was configured in line with the manufacturer’s O&M manual
  • Whether all fixings or clamps are present
  • Whether any component has been damaged in any way, including checking if they are corroded etc.
  • Creation of System Technical File

roof edge protection on flat roof

9. What is a System technical file?

A System technical file is an evidence-based document that the System Designer produces for the duty holder.

As a duty holder, you need to place the document in the health & safety file required under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and retain the document for the lifetime of the building.

This file will include the system design and layout, design calculations, and wind speed calculations permitting compatibility, safety, and operational suitability to be assessed and verified.

The system can:

  • Pass. This means that it satisfies all recommendations and remains in service.
  • Conditionally pass. This means that it satisfies the recommendations of a previous standard and does not immediately present a safety concern. The system will remain in service but will receive a report and recommendations will be given to the duty holder, with a timescale for completion.
  • Conditionally fail. This means that the system satisfies the recommendations of a previous standard, but represents an immediate safety concern (which can be improved). The system is taken out of service, but it will receive a report and recommendations will be given to the duty holder, with a timescale for completion. The system will need to be reinspected before it is returned to service.
  • Fail. This means that the system does not satisfy the recommendations of a previous standard and represents a serious danger. The system will fail if it cannot be improved or repaired and the roof area will be closed to access routes and labelled 'Do not enter area'.

10. Does KeeGuard comply with this new standard?

Our team will ensure that your new KeeGuard roof edge protection system complies with BS13700: 2021. We will supply all instructions and documentation (including a site specific wind speed calculation), as well as provide assistance throughout the entire project.

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