In part two of this article, we continue to look at working at height, with a focus on roofing and ceilings.

Contributed by Institute of Work at Height

A health and safety concern is that a fall from height is the most serious hazard associated with roof work. Preventing falls from roofs is a priority and it is expected from principals, employers, and contractors with staff working on roofs to actively manage any potential for falls.

Investigations into falls while working at height show:

  • more than 50% of falls are from less than 3m
  • most of these falls are from ladders and roofs

More injuries occur on residential building sites than any other workplace in the construction sector, and of falls experienced by roofers:

  • 20% were over three metres in height
  • 40% were from permanent structures such as roofs

These guidelines give all who are involved with working on roofs a clear direction on how to manage the work in a way that will bring down the death and injury toll.
The Best Practice Guidelines for Working on Roofs provides practical guidance to employers, contractors, employees, designers, principals, persons who control a place of work, and architects who are engaged in work associated with roofing.

Workers who need to access roofs and to whom these guidelines will apply include:

  • roofers
  • builders
  • plumbers
  • heating and ventilation installers
  • air conditioning installers
  • painters
  • installers of telecommunications equipment
  • demolition contractors
  • home or property owners or inspectors
  • chimney sweeps.

Legal References:

What are the legal aspects and requirements for working on roofing? Various legal references contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) with specific reference to:

  • Section 8 (duties of employers)
  • Regulations 9 (risk assessments)
  • Regulations 10 (fall protection plans)
  • General Safety and Administrative regulations

As for all companies the OHS Act takes relevance when working on roofs. As per Section 8 of the OHS Act –

  1. Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of his employees.
  2. Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under sub-section (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular:
  • A provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health;
  • Taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment;
  • Making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances;
  • Establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health and safety or persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken;
  • With respect to such work, article, substance, plant and machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures;
  • Providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;
  • As far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken;
  • Taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used;
  • Enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;
  • Ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented; and
  • Causing all employees to be informed regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37(1)(b).

As roof work falls within the definition of the construction site, the Construction Regulation 2014, as per the requirements, needs to be considered when working on roofs including the following sections when working at heights:

CR 10 – Fall Protection

A contractor must:

  • Designate a competent person to be responsible for the preparation of a fall protection plan;
  • Ensure that the fall protection plan contemplated in paragraph (a) is implemented, amended where and when necessary and maintained as required; and
  • Take steps to ensure continued adherence to the fall protection plan.

A fall protection plan contemplated in sub-regulation (1), must include:

  • A risk assessment of all work carried out from a fall risk position and the procedures and methods used to address all the risks identified per location;
  • The processes for the evaluation of the employees’ medical fitness necessary to work at a fall risk position and the records thereof;
  • A programme for the training of employees working from a fall risk position and the records thereof;
  • The procedure addressing the inspection, testing and maintenance of all fall protection equipment; and
  • A rescue plan detailing the necessary procedure, personnel and suitable equipment required to affect a rescue of a person in the event of a fall incident to ensure that the rescue procedure is implemented immediately following the incident.

A contractor must ensure that:

  • All unprotected openings in floors, edges, slabs, hatchways and stairways are adequately guarded, fenced or barricaded or that similar means are used to safeguard any person from falling through such openings;
  • No person is required to work in a fall risk position, unless such work is performed safely as contemplated in sub-regulation (2);
  • Fall prevention and fall arrest equipment are:
  • Approved as suitable and of sufficient strength for the purpose for which they are being used, having regard to the work being carried out and the load, including any person, they are intended to bear; and
  • Securely attached to a structure or plant, and the structure or plant and the means of attachment thereto are suitable and of sufficient strength and stability for the purpose of safely supporting the equipment and any person who could fall; and
  • fall arrest equipment is used only where it is not reasonably practicable to use fall prevention equipment.

Where roof work is being performed on a construction site, the contractor must ensure that, in addition to the requirements set out in sub-regulations (2) and (3), it is indicated in the fall protection plan that:

  • The roof work has been properly planned;
  • The roof erectors are competent to carry out the work;
  • No employee is permitted to work on roofs during inclement weather conditions or if any conditions are hazardous to the health and safety of the employee;
  • All covers to openings and fragile material are of sufficient strength to withstand any imposed loads;
  • Suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings or other similar means of support have been provided to be used in such a way that the weight of any person passing across or working on or from fragile material is supported; and
  • Suitable and sufficient guard-rails, barriers and toe-boards or other similar means of protection prevent, as far as is reasonably practicable, the fall of any person, material or equipment.

The following contributed to this series of articles:
Anderson Cilliers – Protekta (
Riaan van Staden – Group 583 (

The third and final part of ‘Working at height has a lot of depth’ appears in the next issue of SA Affordable Housing.