Roof free-standing guardrail regulations simplified

Navigating the complex world of roof fall protection guardrail systems can be daunting due to the many regulations, standards, and guidelines available. Which ones should you follow?

Our comprehensive blog aims to demystify these complexities and provide clarity. Discover the right solutions for your needs by visiting our website and accessing our expertly crafted guide. Let us help you ensure safety and compliance with confidence.

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Regulations and standards

The following regulations, standards, and guidance documents often cause confusion when 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 that 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

You should refer to the following areas 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), balconies, and any roof to which people have access, as well as any light well, basement area, or similar sunken area connected to a building.

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Guarding, such as edge protection, must have at least two horizontal rails and a minimum height of 1100mm. The loading criteria are taken from Euro Code 1 EN 1991-1-1 & its UK National Annex (PD 6688.1.1) and require 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 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, focusing on effective planning and management of risk.” The Building Regulations also refer to the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

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

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, horizontally and vertically to the system. This standard was 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 counterbalanced systems. Unfortunately, the change never occurred; however, there is an apparent reference to including such permanent counterbalanced systems in the UK National Forward.

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

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 classes B and 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 upstand (restraint/roof edge) present. The Roof Guardrail system manufacturer must comply with this standard by testing the variations, e.g., roof pitch and membrane type, where they claim their products can be installed.

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

When edge protection is installed as a permanent system, it should comply with appropriate wind loading criteria 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 a person falling against a guardrail. As a result, any professional manufacturer should provide a wind design for every installation, depending on the topography, height of the building, and geographical location.

EN 14122-3

Confusion about the standards and their relevance has led some companies to commission independent assessments 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 such situations, some European authorities have applied standards such as EN 14122-3 for machinery safety. Permanent means of access to machinery, stairways, stepladders and guardrails 2010.

While this standard does provide uniformly distributed load and deflection criteria, it is intended for guardrails around plants and machinery. It was widely adopted in the UK as the applicable standard for many years instead of an alternative. As it does not refer to roof pitch, roof membrane, wet or dry conditions, upstand details, or toe-board requirements, it is less appropriate for roof edge protection specifications. 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 who have a duty of care to ensure that work at height is carried out safely and implement a Risk Assessment. Solutions need to be suitable and sufficient to prevent 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.

Concerning Schedule 2 of the Regulations, “Construction Work” (Temporary protection provisions) 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, 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 must be suitable and sufficient and comply with the Building Regulations Part K criteria about 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 to comply with the 470mm gap.

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In conclusion

To correctly specify a fall protection guardrail system, a clear understanding of the various standards and regulations is needed. A system that is fit for purpose could be fatal if the specification is incorrect.

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

A risk assessment should also be completed to determine whether the product fits. 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 with the frequency of access and other controls in place.

The risk assessment will determine whether 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.

Inspections and Risk Assessments