Rooftop Safety Review

Categories: Platforms, Ramps, Roof, Safety Access, Stairs

Examine your rooftop environment. Every commercial or municipal rooftop will need some form of maintenance. Preventative or routine work is needed either for the roof itself or for items located on the roof. This includes equipment or building systems such as HVAC, generators, skylights, ducts and pipes, hatches, electrical, or any of the other countless items tucked away out of sight on the roof.

These systems need regular maintenance, which means personnel will need safe access to, from, in, on, and around them to be able to update, test, or fix them.

Rooftop Hazards in Plain Sight

Slips, trips, and falls are the top workplace injury, and the roof of any building presents a higher number of opportunities for accidents. Look for these tell-tale cues that signal your organization will benefit from an OSHA compliant all-weather aluminum safety access system:

    • Uneven levels
    • Unprotected parapets
    • Hard-to-reach equipment or machinery
    • Platforms, stairs, catwalks, or ramps in disrepair
    • Roof hatches are not completed with OHSA compliant rails
    • Employees must jump down, hop up, or over-reach
    • Unprotected roof openings where someone can fall through

1. Roof Access

How does maintenance safely gain access to the roof?

Ship’s Ladders

Ship’s ladders permanently secured with safety treads and rails set at an ergonomically correct height. The benefit of ship’s ladders is they can accommodate a narrow vertical with a small footprint. Remember that OSHA requirements dictate a minimum clearance of 7” behind the ladder.


Wider treads with handrails is another solution that enables for bulkier items to be carried up to the roof.

Hatch Openings

Roof hatches with a minimum 30” in length will meet OSHA standards. A common sized roof hatch is 36” x 30” for ladder access to the roof but with a ladder requiring the 7” of clearance behind it, this only leaves 29” of clearance for staff to climb through. Measure your roof hatches and access system to be certain it meets the minimum clearance for personnel according to OSHA and state standards.

2. Systems Access: HVAC, Elevator, and Generators

How does the maintenance staff access systems like AHUs (Air Handling Units) and generators safely on the roof?

The location of different building systems are typically located on the roof, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, generators, and elevator controls. Routine maintenance and inspections are required for these systems, but often, these are placed without OSHA-compliant access systems that enable service.

Walkways and Platforms with Hand Rails

There are several ways to address building systems access through the use of platforms, steps, and walkways. By determining the frequency of access to the systems, typical tools, materials, and equipment that is used, you can determine the right system to support the needs of the maintenance staff and remain within OSHA regulations.

3. Roof Edges and Joints

In addition to passive fall protection, roof edges should ideally be encased by OSHA compliant rails as an additional measure of safety and to complement the passive fall protection items personnel should wear. Roof structures that abut one another can present a trip hazard. Where foot traffic is designated, a simple OSHA compliant step or ramp should be installed.

4. Trip Hazards and Holes

Ducts, skylights, ventilation or fan coverings, roof hatches, adjoining roofs, tree limbs, and other items present trip hazards and potential OSHA fines. If trip hazards do not have systems covering them that protect workers, these items should be cataloged and discussed with a field surveyor who can add this and the other access needs to their checklist.

Why the Checklist is Important

By taking account of your roof and where personnel will need access, your field surveyor can create a fully compliant system for both OSHA and state requirements. Instead of creating systems on an ad hoc basis, your Work Safe Access surveyor can view the roof holistically and create a complete an all-weather, durable system that reduces the risk of injury and can create common sense pathways for efficient rooftop maintenance.


If you have any questions about rooftop access, please give us a call today at (844) 972-1136. We provide inspections and OSHA-compliant systems customized for rooftop safety.