Construction sites usually have risky environments. From towering heights to heavy machinery, there’s a constant need for attention and carefulness to prevent accidents. But among these dangers, falls are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities. That’s why edge protection is a lifesaver in the construction industry. It creates a safety zone, a physical and psychological barrier that keeps workers safe and projects on track. Here’s everything you need to know about roof edge protection and why it is so important for construction sites.

Preventing Tragedies

Falls from heights are a brutal reality of construction. Statistics show that a significant portion of construction fatalities are caused by falls. Safety edge protection disrupts this story by creating a physical barrier and reducing the risk of workers falling to the ground. It works as a protection, a system of obstacles placed around open edges, roofs and walking surfaces to prevent falls. Apart from reducing risks of missteps, edge protection also stops tools, materials and debris from falling and causing injuries below.

Mandatory Safety Regulations

Construction companies have a legal responsibility to prioritise worker safety. This responsibility is backed by regulations set by WorkSafe New Zealand and similar bodies around the world. 

WorkSafe New Zealand standards mandate the use of fall protection systems when working at heights exceeding six feet. These include guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), cover roofs, walking/working surfaces, formwork, and excavations. Understanding these regulations and applying them correctly is a must.

Failing to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines, legal consequences, and a tarnished reputation, which is not the kind of publicity you want for your business. Proper edge protection demonstrates that you care about your worker’s safety and portrays your company as a responsible and ethical player in the industry. 

What are Guardrails

Guardrails are the main part of edge protection. They consist of a top rail, mid-rail, and a toeboard securely fastened to posts. Here are different types of guardrails you’ll see:

  • Prefabricated Guardrails:

These pre-assembled units, usually made of steel or aluminium, are quick and easy solutions. They come in various lengths and can be adjusted for different applications.

  • Tube and Clamp Guardrails:

These are more flexible, and they allow for customisation on-site. They contain metal tubes and clamps that can be configured to fit specific needs. 

  • Self-Bailing Guardians:

This newer system uses a base plate for stability and eliminates the need for drilling into the floor. This is ideal for rooftops or other pre-finished surfaces.

Finding the right guardrail for your project depends on several factors. These are the weight capacity needed, the type of surface it will be mounted on, and the specific job requirements. For example, prefabricated guardrails could be perfect for a simple building project, but self-ballasted systems could be ideal for working on a delicate rooftop. 

Installation of Guardrails

Installing guardrails correctly is just as important as choosing the right type. Here’s what you need to consider for proper installation:

  • Post Spacing:

Posts are the guardrail’s vertical support. Depending on the guardrail type and the material used, they need to be spaced at specific gaps. Improper spacing can compromise the entire system’s integrity. 

  • Top Rail Height:

The top rail height should be at least 42 inches high. It should provide a secure barrier that workers can easily grasp.

  • Mid-Rail (Optional):

A mid-rail installed halfway between the top rail and the toeboard provides additional stability and can prevent falls for smaller individuals. 

  • Toeboard:

This is an important component. It prevents tools or materials from falling off the edge and also discourages workers from leaning too far over. It should be at least 4 inches high and securely fastened to the posts.

  • Base Plates:

Depending on the guardrail type, secure base plates are needed to anchor the system to the floor. 

A poorly installed guardrail can be more dangerous than no guardrail at all. It’s vital to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and have qualified professionals handle this installation process.

Other Safety Measures

Guardrails are important for edge protection, but they are not the only essential factors. Here are some additional safety measures:

  • Safety Netting: This net system is a secondary fall protection system that catches workers in case they fall from heights.
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS): These harness-based systems restrain workers to a secure point to prevent falls altogether. 
  • Covering Openings: Floor openings, skylights, and other hazards should be properly covered with strong materials to prevent falls.

For the most effective approach to edge protection, combine these systems and create a multi-layered safety net.

Closing Words

Edge protection is a lifesaver for workers in construction sites. Accidents can happen at any time, and equipping workers with safety and lifelines gives them extra protection in case they do happen to lose their balance. Edge protection prevents falls and helps everyone on the site return home safely after a hard day’s work. It creates a safe work environment where everyone feels protected and valued.

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