Inspecting the roof of a building can be difficult and potentially risky, particularly for steeply pitched roofs and for many two-storied houses or houses on steeper sites. If you are uncomfortable accessing your roof, employing a registered tradesperson to check it is recommended. Parts of a lower storey roof may be visually inspected at a distance from the upper floor windows or an adjacent piece of high ground.

For most people doing home maintenance, ladders and scaffolds will be sufficient for working at height. There are other options that more experienced homeowners may wish to use on larger projects, however.

Guard rails/edge protection

Guard rails and other edge protection barriers should be used at unprotected edges of working platforms, roofs and around openings, skylights etc.

Guard rail systems should:

  • have a top rail 900–1100 mm above working/walking level
  • have a midrail – there should be no more than 460 mm between rails
  • have a bottom rail (or a toeboard 225 mm minimum above the platform if there is a risk of tools or materials falling) 
  • have a gap of 100 mm or less between the guard and the roof edge guttering where possible (or 200 mm maximum if not possible).

There are proprietary systems available that come with their own installation requirements.

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Safety harness systems

Body harness systems require training for use and should be set up by an experienced and competent person.

  • A total restraint system is designed to stop a worker going over the edge. It is a body harness connected by a safety line to a strong anchorage point or lifeline.
  • By contrast, a fall arrest system does not stop a worker going over the edge, but it slows the fall and avoids a hard impact. These systems are used when workers need to be close to an unprotected edge. The worker’s body harness is connected to a lanyard incorporating an energy absorber, and that is connected to an anchorage point. A safety helmet should be worn.
  • A work positioning system also involves a harness and safety line, but the system is under tension while the worker is carrying out a job.

Have somebody else close at hand when using a harness system so you can quickly be assisted if you get into trouble.

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Safety nets

Synthetic safety nets installed below the area of work but sufficiently high above a hard surface can catch anyone falling.

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Air bags

Air bags or soft landing systems are inflated devices that, like safety nets, do not prevent a fall but reduce the impact.

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Safety mesh

Safety mesh securely connected to roof framing is a protection option when installing roofing. The mesh must comply with AS/NZS 4389:2015 Roof safety mesh.

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General guidelines

On steeper roofs – where the slope is over 25° – WorkSafe recommends adding a roof ladder to the guard rails or harness system to reduce the likelihood of slipping. The bracket on the roof ladder should reach over the ridge line.

A range of safe working practice guidelines are available from WorkSafe, including:

These are available for reading online or downloading.

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