Roof safety railings: 6 reasons why you should not do it yourself.

General information

We asked Canadian fall protection specialists from coast to coast why safety equipment should be left to experts.

You strive to be a leader in your own field and your proprietary knowledge has been developed over the years. The same thing goes for fall protection equipment. In fact, when lives are at stake, the cost of mistakes might be very high. Furthermore, while some systems may appear simple at first, like roof safety railings, they are developed to be compliant with ever-changing regulations and engineered for safety and durability. We asked fall protection experts from all across Canada why you should not cut corners and do it yourself. Here are the top 6 reasons.

1- Uncertain compliance with fall protection standards

You are liable to offer a safe work environment for your workers and subcontractors working on your roof. “Why use unspecialized workers to build safety equipment – would you build your own seatbelt” ? asks Chris Fabbi, owner of kN Fall Protection in Kelowna, BC. The most crucial aspect to a roof safety railing is meeting the standards, both on the design and the force it needs to withstand. “When asked, most people don’t know the code or standard to build it to. Plus, who will test it and how?” confirms Doug Legg, Service Manager at Rubicon Safety in Burlington, ON. This leads to trial and error which you are still liable for. “I have seen everything – even a mid-rail made with a wire,” comments Bruce Davis from SPI Health and Safety, in Quebec.

2- You will get what you pay for…or less!

How will the materials used react over time ? “Using inadequate material and improper finishes will end up looking worse and will greatly reduce the life expectancy of the equipment,” comments Fabbi. When developing a permanent roof safety railing, the durability is crucial, especially if designing a ballasted version. “An improperly designed counterweight base can puncture the roof, sink into the membrane or worse, crumble over time and lose its mass, creating a false sense of safety” adds Alex Lajoie, Product Specialist at Delta Prevention. When designing a permanent roof safety railing, aesthetic can also be a consideration. The guardrail should blend in the architectural element of your building, not stick out from it. Therefore, the spacing of components, finish of material and the durability of those materials are all equally important.

3- There is no cost saving

Let’s be honest: when you factor in the cost of material, the time invested in researching the standards, drawing or designing the guardrail itself and the hourly wage of your employees to assemble and weld it (the average rate for an industrial maintenance technician is $20/hour and up to $36/hour for a welder), the cost savings are non-existent. Working with an external fabricator will increase these costs. The human cost increases while your maintenance manager or project coordinator exchanges countless communications with the external agency, making sure the project is on track. Certification cost will also add-up (anywhere from $700 to $1500 per section), since you are expected to build a guardrail that is compliant with standards. “We don’t question your ability to weld, but when lives are on the line, it has to be done right” mentions Legg from Rubicon Safety. Because if something fails, you are the one responsible.

4- An expense vs an asset

When building a custom roof safety railing system, you are designing a fixed, single use equipment made for your current fall protection needs. If your company plans to add new HVAC units, roof piping or venting or worse, replace the entire roof in the upcoming years, the system will need to be discarded and the time and money invested will be lost. “With a pre-engineered and modular system, you can dismantle and redesign the layout according to your evolving needs. In fact, if the company sells or moves to a new facility, you can keep and re-assemble your existing components onto the new roof, adding to it if necessary” explains Lorraine Kearsey-Carter, President of Rubicon Safety.

5- High risk of damage to your building

The biggest disadvantage of a fixed roof safety railing is that it penetrates the building envelope, whether it’s the roof membrane, parapet wall or fascia. Now imagine if it’s installed without the proper hardware, in the wrong location and without proper protection. “Without engineering approval, who knows if your wall or parapet is strong enough to receive an additional structure, which itself needs to withstand a horizontal load of 1 kN/225 lbs” reminds Lajoie. But the installation is just the first part. “Not roofing and sealing properly after installation can cause major damage,” says Fabbi. Indeed, water leakage can quickly transform a DIY project into a 911 call. Finally, if you attempt to build a non-penetrating roof safety railing, improper weight distribution can cause punctures in the roof membrane, voiding your warranty.

6- You get more when working with experts

Beyond only supplying a quality, pre-engineered and modular system, working with a dedicated fall protection specialist will offer you much more. You will get advice and insights through a complete roof safety audit performed by professionals who understand the standards and their application. Then, the installation will be performed by a team of trained experts, making the process fast and painless. In fact, in the case of Rubicon Safety, it gets you the piece of mind of being backed by a multi-million dollar Liability Insurance & multi-million dollar Errors & Omissions Insurance. As well, the workers installing the product are properly insured under the Provincial WSIB ( Workplace Safety & Insurance Board- Ontario) to install guardrail. Annual visual inspection is also offered, making sure your installation stays up to date for the lifetime of your building.

Delta Prevention is a manufacturer of non-penetrating fall protection equipment for rooftop. With innovative materials and industry leading versatility, Delta Prevention’s VSS System is the safest and most durable collective fall protection system on the market. Visit our website at


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