The discussion on how to best future proof our lifestyles and buildings is raging worldwide. Part of the considerations is how to utilize rooftops to the fullest. Rooftops no longer serve only to protect, they are now also used as gardens. However, when making decisions on how to best use the space available, the safety aspect often gets underexposed.
Green roofs are a trend that have soared in the last years as they can contribute greatly to sustainability. There are many benefits to green roofs, for example green roofs serve as a rainwater buffer, plants on the roof absorb heat and provide cleaner air, and plants on the roof help increase biodiversity in cities.
No building is entirely maintenance free, but green roofs require some extra upkeep. It is recommended to inspect the roof and clean weeds regularly, to check if the drainage system works properly, and some parties recommend fertilization every once in a while. Due to the maintenance the roof and the plants on the roof need, the roof needs to be made safe for those who have to work at height.
Implement fall protection from the start
To protect workers from fall hazards, fall protection measures need to be taken. The best timing to determine what fall protection is necessary is during the design phase of a green roof project. Not only will this limit costly refurbishments, it also ensures proper installation and safety. So think about the maintenance tasks that have to be executed on the roof, and plan your safety measures accordingly.
Ideally we want to eliminate the risk of falling altogether, by moving the work to a safe location. With green roofs this is most often not a possibility. In that case guardrails systems offer the highest level of safety for anyone on the roof. A great advantage of a guardrail system above other fall protection systems is the fact that users do not need specific training to work with the system. The guardrails are always present, and will prevent anyone from falling.
If guardrails are no option you can look into work positioning or fall arrest systems. The basis for these systems can be single anchor points or a horizontal lifeline system. With a work positioning system users cannot fall, because they cannot reach over the edge. With a fall arrest system the user can fall, but the equipment stops the fall.
Roof built-up of a green roof
When thinking about the fall protection solution you need to keep in mind that the roof is going to be covered in a layer of plants. This has an effect on, for example, the height of an anchor point. After all users do need to be able to attach to the anchorage point when the plants are growing on the roof.
Additionally green roofs typically have a few more roofing layers than a standard roof built-up. Aside from the basic roof deck a green roof generally includes a waterproof membrane, an isolation layer, a drainage layer, a layer of soil and, of course, the green layer of plants. This could have an effect on the installation method(s) of the fall protection solution.