Safety on Green Roofs


Jason Godfrey, General Manager at Safesite, explains the importance of safety solutions on green roofs.

As we become increasingly conscious about the environment and green issues, the demand for sustainable construction has grown.  This has lead to an increase in green roofs, particularly in cities where these roofs are seen as an important part of combating the effects of climate change.

Green roofs can 'grow' around a safety system
Green roofs can ‘grow’ around a safety system

The benefits of green roofs are substantial.  As well as being aesthetically pleasing, they are an important and cost effective means of enhancing biodiversity, increasing the life expectancy of the roof membrane, improving the quality of water, run-off and air quality, and providing a sound insulation barrier.  Their greater thermal mass also has a positive impact on a building’s energy consumption by improving its thermal performance.

Although they are self sustaining, these roofs still require maintenance. This may be vegetation maintenance, removing unwanted plant material and replacing failed plants or checking drain outlets and fire breaks, inspecting flashings and mastic of the roofing membrane itself.  Rooflights and solar panels will also need to be cleaned, antennae serviced and litter and debris removed from the roof.  Taking all this into account, it is likely that maintenance will need to be carried out at least twice a year, which according to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) is frequent activity.

Maintenance requirements for green roofs should be planned for at the design stage, and provision needs to be made for safety systems so that work can be carried out safely.  When considering a safety system, the general rule is for collective measures such as guardrails to be the first priority, especially when many of those accessing the roof, such as landscapers, will have limited experience and training when it comes to working at height.

Lifeline installed on green roof
Lifeline installed on green roof

There will be occasions where collective measures are not suitable.  In these situations, fall restraint or fall arrest systems including roof anchors and lifelines provide an alternative solution.  Lifelines such as Safesite’s Horizontal Lifeline provide the user with continual hands free protection along the length of the system without the need to detach.

Alternatively, roof anchors such as the Mobile Man Anchor can be used as a single unit or as a series of anchors linked together via the Safesite horizontal lifeline to provide user protection.  Whenever possible these systems should be used as fall restraint, preventing the user from reaching the leading edge.  If the user does need to work in an area where a fall is possible, the system will become fall arrest and should only be used by those who have been trained on both the equipment and rescue.

Safe maintenance
Safe maintenance

As with any form of work at height, safety on the roofs must not be overlooked. By considering safety at the design stage, systems can be installed before planting, allowing the roof to grow ‘around’ the system, making it less obtrusive, but still ensuring that work can be carried out in complete safety.

For more information, visit www.safesite.co.uk

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One thought on “Safety on Green Roofs”

  1. During my recent home roofing project, I looked at getting a harness. They are fairly costly (around $200 in Canada). Mine was a small project (though 2 stories up), so I elected to simply work very carefully. The crazy thing is, I see professional roofers working without harnesses all the time.

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