Requirements for Fall Protection on Roofs

Working on a rooftop is challenging. That’s why workers need proper protection. However, several factors determine what’s best for a particular situation. You have to know if the roof is steep or has a slow slope. Various and unpredictable elements also need to be considered.


In this article, we will take a closer look at fall protection on roofs. Let’s dive in!

Fall Protection on Roofs

Rooftop work is undeniably dangerous. But there are several industry-approved ways to protect roofing workers. Some of them are meant to prevent possible falls. Others can be used to help if a fall actually occurs.


Fall protection on roofs needs to be provided when there is a hazard in the work environment. The roof edge is the most obvious danger. Therefore it has to be adequately secured. Skylights are considered to be holes and also should be appropriately guarded. And if one roof connects to another but there is a six feet distance between their heights, it’s considered hazardous as well.


Examples of fall protection can be assigned to the following types: guardrails, restraint mechanisms, and fall arrest equipment.


The previous two are designed to prevent the fall. The third option is meant to keep the worker from injury in the case of falling.


Generally, the height that requires protection is four feet. In the case of construction work, the height is 6 feet. These measurements are applicable to rooftops, ladders, and other sorts of elevated structures.


The roof’s slope should also be considered. A low slope ranges from zero to 18.4 degrees, whereas a steep slope is upwards of 18.5 degrees. A flat slope roof can utilize many of the common forms of fall protection. Steep slopes are recommended to have guardrails with toeboards and personal fall arrest systems.


The distance from the worksite to the edge of the roof needs to be noted. If there are about six feet to the side, it’s required that you provide workers with guardrail, fall restraint, or fall arrest systems. When the distance is from 6 to 15 feet, there have to be traditional fall protections or the work area has to be secured. If the distance from the worksite to the edge is more than 15 feet, the same rules apply, but the employer is not obligated to provide fall protection.


As a more conventional means to lessen the risk of falling, the work area should be kept clean of debris and unnecessary materials. Workers should also wear comfortable, preferably non-slippery, footwear.


A guardrail is a vertical and stable barrier designed to prevent falls. It is also the most popular fall protection on roofs. It can consist of both top rails and mid-rails, connected with posts.


Usually, a guardrail is about 42 inches in height. The mid-rail is placed in the middle area of the guardrail, safeguarding the open space of the construction. It prevents more significant objects from falling.


On steep slopes, it’s recommended that the roof has toeboards. These constructions are meant to keep the tools and other materials from slipping down. They also help the workers to steady themselves. Toeboards should be about 4 inches in height.


In case you do not wish to invest in permanent guardrails, there’s an option to install temporary or portable ones for the duration of the repair or construction work.

Restraint Mechanisms

Also known as fall restraints, they are designed to keep the worker from falling in hazardous zones. A person’s body is connected to a well-secured anchor, preventing the fall. Restraint mechanisms are preferred to fall arrest equipment because the worker is at lesser risk of being injured.


Restraints are relatively easy to use. A person wears a harness that has an attached lanyard. This lanyard can be fastened to an anchor and secured to a part of the roof. A worker then may proceed to work as long as the length of the lanyard allows.


These are necessary measures when a worksite is away from the edge, but protection is still needed. Restraint mechanisms give workers mobility while helping with the safety of the roof.

Fall Arrest Equipment

When it comes to fall protection on roofs, fall arrest equipment is the last of the list. Unlike the previous options, this method serves to help the worker in the case of fall itself.


A person is tied to a stable construction, and if they ever fall, the lanyard will suspend them and avoid the impact. This method is the most dangerous of the three discussed. The suspension can hurt the worker, so the probability of injury is highest for fall arrests. Therefore, this method works best when paired with other options. Fall arrest equipment is the last safeguard for the worker to avoid dangerous impact. This gear is always needed when working close to the edge of the roof.

Frequency and Prevention

According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety, many fatalities occur because a worker or employer underestimates the height they’re working at.


Many commercial buildings require the roof to be worked on several times a day. Work can be carried out during bad weather or even at night. This often creates a hazardous work environment, and the best way to help workers is to install guardrails.


Guardrails provide passive prevention of falls, do not require the worker to put on a harness, or take additional safety measures. Guardrails also work for both low and steep slopes.

Want to Learn More?

Safety measures are best selected depending on how often workers have to stay on the roof. This is usually best determined by consulting professionals. So, if you have any questions or concerns about fall protection on roofs, please contact us.


Atlas safety rental equipment

Share this article: