A fall from height is the most serious hazard associated with roof work. Preventing falls from roofs is a priority and it is expected from principals, employers, and contractors with staff working on roofs to actively manage any potential for falls.

Investigations into falls while working at height show that more than 50% of falls are from less than three metres, and most of these falls are from ladders and roofs.

More injuries happen on residential building sites than any other workplace in the construction sector, and of falls experienced by roofers:

  • 20% were over three metres in height
  • 40% were from permanent structures such as roofs These guidelines give all who are involved with working on roofs a clear direction on how to manage the work in a way that will bring down the death and injury toll.

    The Best Practice Guidelines for Working on Roofs provides practical guidance to employers, contractors, employees, designers, principals, persons who control a place of work, and architects who are engaged in work associated with roofing.

    Workers who need to access roofs and to whom these guidelines will apply include:

  • Roofers
  • Builders
  • Plumbers
  • Heating and ventilation installers
  • Air conditioning installers
  • Painters
  • Installers of telecommunications equipment
  • Demolition contractors
  • Home or property owners or inspectors
  • Chimney sweeps, etc.


    What are the legal aspects and requirements for working on roofing?

    Various legal references contained in the OHS act with specific reference to:

  • Section 8 (Duties of Employers)
  • Regulations 9 (Risk Assessments)
  • Regulations 10 (Fall protection plans)
  • General Safety and Administrative regulations

    As for all companies the Occupational Health and Safety Act takes relevance when working on roofs. As per Section 8 of the OHS Act:

    1) Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of his employees.
    2) Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular
    a) Provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health
    b) Taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment
    c) Making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances
    d) Establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health and safety or persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken
    e) With respect to such work, article, substance, plant and machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures
    f) Providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees
    g) As far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken
    h) Taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used
    i) Enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;
    j) Ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented
    k) Causing all employees to be informed regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37(1)(b)


    What are the common challenges the developer’s team faces when installing a roof and when working at heights such as scaffolding and rope access, i.e. painting or cladding or specialist operations like waterproofing? Some new buildings can be three or four storeys tall, and redevelopments in the inner cities can be as tall as 10 storeys.

    Any building has a few generic challenges that the developers and construction personnel face when either constructing, renovating or refurbishing a building with rooftops including the availability and suitability of structural or certified anchor points. Structural anchor points in a roofing environment are normally wooden trusses and they are not of sufficient strength to withstand a shock load of 15kn in case of a fall. This includes during all phases of construction.

    Sheeting is normally a huge challenge as well, as it does not allow for lifelines (either permanent or temporary) to be installed due to various reasons, including:

  • Constant movement during installation (as sheeting is being placed on the wooden trusses). This is also applicable to steel trusses as you install sheeting over the anchor point
  • Anchor points at feet level increasing the fall distance
  • Competency of personnel on site to competently assess the rooftops and place appropriate systems in place on site
  • Time that is available for the installation of systems for safety is just not available and thus the ‘shortest route’ possible is used and that does not include certified or competently installed systems