Working at heights – are roof anchor points needed?
Do you know what you need for safety before working on your roof? Working at height is risky, but the proper safety measures can fully protect you. See how!
Do you ever work at heights, maybe working on your roof or cleaning your gutters or windows? Or perhaps something even bigger? Well, my house has a flat roof, and I finally got building permission to build the mother of all pergolas! Of course, this was my wife's idea, like all my DIY projects! Although this is one of the more significant projects I've recently taken on!
Now, this wasn't that high; the roof is around 4 meters from the ground! I was, in my infinite stupidity, overly confident! My wife was going on at me about how I needed to use safety equipment, a harness, roof anchor points, ladder brackets and so on. Many years ago, I used to work as a brickie, and thankfully I never fell, and believe me, my 18-year-old self worked in way worse conditions than my roof! As I said before, I was overly confident! I thought to myself, "I'm not going to fall!". After spending all the money on the pergola, I definitely didn't want to spend more money installing roof anchor points! So I started working; I added the supporting feet without a hiccup! Then I started welding the frame to hold the roof, and things got scary! But as I had already argued with the better half, I decided my male pride was worth more than life, and I battled on!
After many hours of welding, I still hadn't fallen off, and I started to get cocky and tired! Well, guess what? I fell! Yes, I hit the ground with a bang! Thankfully, I managed to direct my fall, so as I fell off the ladder I was working on, I didn't fall off the roof; I just fell the height of the ladder!
Thankfully, I hadn't killed myself! Unfortunately, my shoulder and ribs were a little saw, and my manly pride was bruised! But that wasn't the big problem; my wife saw the whole thing! That's when the argument started! Well, not so much of a fight, more of a lecture about how stupid I was being and her showing me multiple articles about how many people die from falling off a ladder every year! The worse thing is that she was right. Still not wanting to spend more money on expensive safety equipment, and to the dismay of my misses, I started investigating how to install roof safety anchor points myself!
Let's start with the basics, as that's all I thought I needed!
Roof Anchor Point
Exactly what it sounds like, a point or multiple points on your roof to anchor yourself to.
There are two common types:
• Fall arrest. If you fall, they stop you from hitting the floor. You still get a nasty jolt, but it's better than hitting the floor!
• Fall restraints: These are slightly different; the idea is that it stops you from getting close enough to the edge to actually fall off.
I needed fall arrest roof anchor points. Fall restraints would not be helpful in my case, as I needed to be working on the edge.
There seem to be dozens of types of fall arrest roof anchor points on the market. First, you have to use one kind or another depending on the type of roof: concrete, terracotta, slate, iron, Colorbond steel and metal sheeting. Then you have temporary roof anchor points & permanent roof anchors points. Plus, you have concrete mounted, rafter mounted, steel-fit, eye bolts, rail systems, I-beam, metal decking, parapet, speciality anchors and the list goes on.
Choosing the right roof anchor point was starting to get complicated! I was sure that I would use permanent anchor points, and I know my roof is made of concrete, plus I had read some good things about the brand SafetyLink. But, finally, I felt like I was getting there; I could do this and prove my wife wrong, at least about installing them myself!
How many anchor points do I need?
Now I knew what type of anchor point I needed, how many would I need? Googling, I found the following guidelines:
1. Maximum they can be 10 meters from the roof edge, as the recommended length of the lifeline is 15-meters. Anything longer, as you can imagine, is heavy.
2. Maximum 6 meters each between the anchor points.
3. The main anchor point must be placed at the same distance from the roof's edge and the gable end of the roof.
My roof has around 240 sqm, give or take a few meters. So, I needed about four anchor points in total. Although I still needed to make sure they wouldn't be in the way once I had finished the roof terrace I was building.
Access hatches are the easiest and safest way to get access to the roof. Luckily, my house already has an access hatch. So that's how I was planning on getting up to my new terrace that had started all this!
The guidelines are simple, there has to be an anchor point within a meter of the access hatch, so anyone going up on the roof can latch on before going onto the roof.
As I said, my house has an access hatch, but most homes don't have one of these. Mainly, they are only for non-residential buildings like office buildings, warehouses, and apartment buildings. If you're lucky enough to have one like me, fantastic; if not and you want one, you'll probably need a builder to place one, as it means opening a hole in your roof!
Ladder brackets are big hooks that secure your ladder in place while working on a ladder or accessing an area that can only be accessed via a ladder.
Part of my roof is higher than the new terrace area. As my father always said, in for an inch, in for a mile. Now, as I'm making my roof safe, I might as well add a ladder bracket! I won't go into much detail on ladder brackets, as I didn't find any guidelines. Simply put, you need to place them where the ladder will have a secure footing. Other than that, you can put them anywhere!
Always listen to your wife!
Ok, after many hours of investing, I had decided what I needed. Reading reviews and datasheets, I knew which brand I would buy! Then I hit a massive roadblock! If I was going to all this fuss and spending money, I wanted something above board, something that would add value to my property, something future roof workers, builders, or gutter cleaners could use. But I had stumbled upon an article from the Australian WHS/OH&S that had bad news! The article mentioned that by law, all height safety systems need to be installed and certified every year by professionals! Yes, BY PROFESSIONALS! So my wife was right all along. I needed to call a professional; I couldn't do it myself.
When I told my wife, she lovingly said that she had told me so and mentioned that a friend of hers had recommended a local company called Sydney Anchor Points.
Well, in the end, I gave in and called them! The very next day, they popped by to take a look and give me a free consultation. I was sure that I knew best, as I had done all my research; I knew what I needed, confident that they wouldn't be able to fool me into buying more. Strangely, to my surprise, they showed me I didn't need 4. I could get away with less! They drew out a plan of what I needed & where I needed anchor points, cleverly out of the way so they wouldn't be an eyesore on my new roof terrace.
So, what have I learned from all of this in the end? First, I should have listened to my wife! Then I would have been saved from almost falling off the roof, a bruised ego and many wasted hours of Googling about roof anchor points. At least now, if you ever need to talk about anchor points and roof safety systems, I'm your guy!
Secondly, if you're in Sydney and need some help with roof safety systems, we know not to listen to someone with a blog rambling on about roof anchor points! So bite the bullet, and call a professional! You'll thank me in the end! I'll even leave you their contact details here, save you some time!
So be safe and listen to your wives!
Sydney Anchor Points
Address: 14/5-7 Prosperity Parade, Warriewood NSW 2102
Phone: (02) 8020 5777