Roof Safety: When Should You Use Safety Rails?

General information

Safety rails are barriers placed at the edge of a roof to reduce the risk of falls from heights, especially those related to a roof access. Usually made of highly weather-resistant aluminum, they’re placed at the edges of roofs on construction sites to ensure roof safety by limiting the possibilities of workers falling.

When Should You Use Safety Rails?

Safety rails are restraint systems also known as guardrails that help prevent accidents such as falls from heights as much as possible. They’re used to create an obstacle between a roof and the void and to reduce the severity of a potential accident.

Like any safety equipment, the guardrail must meet very specific standards. According to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), safety rails or guardrails must be used when workers are exposed to a risk of falling from more than 3 metres. In this case, the employer must install guardrails to prevent the fall or use another method to ensure equivalent safety. Falls from heights are problems encountered that can be anticipated in almost all workplaces. Business sectors such as construction, commerce, personal commercial services, transportation and storage, and medical and social services are primarily concerned by the risks of falls from heights. The jobs at risk on construction sites include exterior wall finishing or renovation or roof installation. For their part, the professions at risk include: carpenters, roofers, masons, handlers, window washers, chimney sweeps, and painters.

The Different Possibilities for Securing a Roof

Permanent self-supporting guardrails

Permanent self-supporting guardrails should be used when the safety of your employees or subcontractors depends on your fall prevention system. If you perform many operations on a roof over the long term, a permanent safety rail that will resist years of bad weather is the best thing to invest in. Guardrails offer a high level of safety for life, but they can be transported or removed from a roof, because they’re self-supporting and won’t damage the structure of your roof.

Temporary self-supporting guardrails

Ideal for ensuring safety on a construction site or a short-term maintenance site, a temporary self-supporting safety rail must still meet all the applicable standards—that is, CBNC, CNESST and OSHA standards. If you frequently perform operations at heights in your field of business, you’ll save a great deal of money in the long term by acquiring one of several removable guardrails. The financial savings will be considerable with regard not only to your purchases of materials, but also to the working time of your employees.

The safety line

A permanent warning line may be enough to ensure the safety of people found on a roof. It lets you mark off a visual protection perimeter between work areas at height, but it’s still less secure than a safety rail at preventing falls and cannot in any case replace it. For certain specific jobs, the warning line is used, and this is placed 2 metres or more from any place where a worker could fall from a height.

To avoid any trouble with the authorities responsible for enforcing the applicable standards, don’t hesitate to rely on a company specializing in safety related to working at heights on roofs. For more information, contact us!


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CNESST, fall protection railing, guardrails, roof freestanding barrier, safety line, self-supporting guardrails, Standards