Aside from internal building components such as electrical and plumbing, all commercial facilities need to have a reliable and durable roofing system for an additional layer of security. Commercial roofs must be well-maintained and regularly checked for any signs of damage or deterioration to ensure the component’s effectiveness.
The fastest way for roofers to gain entry to the rooftop is by using roof hatches. They provide direct access to the roof with the help of a surface-mounted ladder and consist of various features and safety options, including weatherproof construction. These hatches are typically built with an upward swing door with easy handling operation to ensure safe access.
Roof hatches are the best solution to your rooftop access needs, but what if the roofers or technicians need to bring several pieces of equipment inside? Aside from roofing systems, most commercial rooftops contain HVAC systems, generators, solar panels, and other roof-mounted devices that must be maintained and repaired now and then.
This article will guide you on the advantages of installing equipment roof hatches and how you can promote safety during roof construction projects.
Equipment Roof Hatch Advantages
During repairs, technicians often need to bring large devices up to the roof. Squeezing in the equipment through small roof hatches is labor-intensive, not to mention hazardous since the device can fall back to the carrier. If you own or maintain commercial buildings, it is also ideal for installing equipment roof hatches since they have larger openings than regular hatches.
Manufacturers typically build equipment hatches in size 48″ x 48″ to ensure that roofers can quickly bring large devices up to the commercial roof. Their construction usually includes cellulose insulation EPDM gasket and is built using stainless steel, galvanized steel, and aluminum. Finally, these hatches have gas-spring operators for ease of operation.
Aside from their impressive features, here are other benefits that they can provide during rooftop repairs and construction.
- CONVENIENCE – Convenience is the equipment roof hatch’s main selling point. Aside from roof access, the unit generally allows roofers and contractors to bring large tools into the rooftop. This feature is handy for roof installation and replacement jobs.
- SECURITY – Aside from meeting your equipment servicing needs, the equipment roof hatch is reliable and sturdy enough to provide a substantial layer of protection against unauthorized entry to the roof and into the building. Most units feature tamper-proof hinges and steel latches for additional security.
- SAFETY – Since equipment hatches allow roofers to bring large devices into the roof conveniently, it prevents them from trying to fit these devices in personal access hatches, which is a safety risk. Compressing a piece of equipment through a regular hatch puts the carrier at risk since it can fall back and pin them down.
- PROTECTION AGAINST THE ELEMENTS – One of the primary purposes of installing commercial roofing systems is to protect the building from external elements. Equipment roof hatches add a layer of protection from extreme weather as most units have anti-corrosion and insulation properties. These hatches can prevent rainwater from penetrating the building for businesses that operate in rain-prone areas, thanks to their gasketed covers.
When dealing with roof hatches in general, it is also crucial to understand the risks involved in roofing jobs and the importance of complying with OSHA’s fall protection guidelines that pertain to roof hatches.
OSHA Fall Protection Regulation
Historically, fall incidents are one of the leading causes of fatalities in construction sites, including roofing jobs. The numbers are so high that it accounts for about a third of all deaths in the construction industry alone. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conveyed an alarming statistical figure from the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2018. The data has determined that the fatality rate of roofing contractors is ten times more than the average rate of work fatalities from other sectors.
OSHA’s recognition of the severity of falling incidents paved the way for an effective and stringent fall protection regulation to reduce falling incidents and protect workers from these hazards.
While it is necessary for employers and workers to work as a unit to prevent fall accidents, employers have more responsibility for providing the proper safety equipment and training. They need to determine whether the worksite can support work activity and if fall protection is required.
Ideally, employers must follow the six-foot rule wherein workers must wear appropriate fall protection gear when conducting work at elevations of six feet or greater past a lower level. Here are some of the ways that employers can improve fall protection on-site.
- PERIMETER FLAG LINES – When working on commercial rooftops, there may be instances when roofers get too preoccupied with their work that they find themselves near the edge of the slope. Perimeter flag lines act as a reminder to ensure that all workers are alerted near the border.
- ACCESS LADDERS – They may seem helpful when working on the roof or in high places, but ladders and stairways are the construction industry’s primary sources of fall incidents and deaths. OSHA recognizes this risk and has created regulations that apply to all ladders and stairways used in the installation, repair, and decoration, to name a few. When choosing an access ladder, its material, size, and weight limit must all match site requirements.
- ROOF HATCH RAILS – Since OSHA considers all roof hatches a hole in the top, they see it as a falling hazard. Hence, the agency requires the installation of a perimeter railing to minimize the risk. It needs to be manufactured with durable materials that can withstand a downward force of up to 200 pounds without deflecting to less than 39 inches. Its surface must be smooth to prevent workers’ clothes, safety gear, and skin from latching onto the rail.
- PROTECTIVE GEAR – Every employer’s responsibility is to provide workers with necessary fall protection gear, such as helmets, face or eye goggles, gloves, non-slip boots, and personal fall arrest systems.
- GUARDRAILS – Guardrails act as a barrier installed around the roof’s perimeter to prevent roofers from falling to lower levels. OSHA requires employers to install the top rail 42 inches above the walking or working level. The rails must be installed on each unprotected edge or corner when used in ramps or runways.
- SAFETY NET SYSTEM – This lifesaving mesh system is usually made with synthetic or natural fibers suspended below the roof site or skylight to catch falling workers. OSHA requires drop tests, and employers must never use defective nets.
When deciding which fall protection equipment or gear you need, it is best to speak with an expert specializing in OSHA regulations. They can assess your current fall protection system and give you professional feedback on which ones to remove and which ones to install.
When it comes to securing the protection of your building, you must also ensure the safety of the workers. Most industrial and commercial facilities require regular access to the roof for repairs and maintenance, and you can ensure their safety. At the same time, they take care of your roofing system and other critical components. Contact us if you need help installing equipment roof hatches on your next project.