Rooftop Fall Protection Comparison: Pros & Cons

Updated on March 21, 2019

Overview

The scope of this document is to give you a general outline of the different pros and cons of the fall protection systems that we offer.

There are two principal forms of fall protection covered in this document: Passive and Active.

  • Passive fall protection is most closely aligned with guardrail. Guardrail requires minimal inspection and virtually no training. Simply put, passive fall protection requires no action from the rooftop worker once the system is installed.
  • Active fall protection is typically aligned with horizontal lifelines and anchor points. It requires training, maintenance, inspection, and management on an on-going basis. Most importantly, it requires action from the user each time it is used.

What is the difference between different types of fall protection?

Pricing information is based upon estimated pricing of typical systems as of March 2019, our assumption is that price changes affect all systems equally.

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Non-Penetrating Rooftop Guardrails

KeeGuard Rooftop Guardrail KeeGuard Rooftop Guardrail

The best example of non-penetrating rooftop guardrail is the KeeGuard Rooftop Guardrail system. It is a counter-balanced system that is easy to install and can be adapted to just about any rooftop obstacle. Easily assembled by a two-man crew, it can protect large sections of roof perimeter or provide smaller sections of spot protection.

Costs

System Costs

$90 - $120 / LF

Installation Costs

16 Man Hours / 600' LF

Training Costs

None


Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to install, no specialized training is required
  • Can easily be modified on site no welding required
  • No ongoing maintenance or training is required
  • Versatile - Can be built around existing rooftop obstacles such as HVAC units and roofs of varying heights
  • Durable 100% galvanized system
  • Tested for OSHA compliance
  • Architectural “look and feel”
  • Initial product cost is higher than other systems

Parapet Guardrail

Parapet Guardrail Parapet Guardrail

Parapet guardrails are permanent guardrails that are attached directly to the side or top of a roof parapet. Parapet guardrails are less expensive than non-penetrating guardrail but will require more labor costs and a suitable parapet to install.

Costs

System Costs

$20 - $35 / LF

Installation Costs

32 Man Hours / 600' LF

Training Costs

None


Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Lower linear foot cost than a counter-balanced solution.
  • Easy to install, attaches directly to the parapet, avoiding penetration of the roof membrane.
  • No ongoing training is required
  • Can be built around existing rooftop obstacles such as HVAC units and roofs of varying heights
  • Suitable parapet is required
  • Railing has to be placed on parapet, making it more visible from below.
  • Higher installation costs
  • Special labor is required in most cases for proper sealing of penetrations
  • Penetrations may need to be maintained

Horizontal Lifeline

Horizontal Lifeline Horizontal Lifeline

Horizontal lifeline systems are built along a particular path of the rooftop. The rooftop worker ties off to the system using a harness and lanyard. Horizontal lifelines must be installed and maintained by specialized personnel. OSHA also requires all employees using the system to undergo competent person training for each system. Rescue plans and other safety management overheads are involved in all active fall protection systems.

Costs

System Costs

$60 - $120 / LF plus PPE, training, and administration overhead

Installation Costs

Professional Installation adds $10k - $100k

Training Costs

Competent person training, system training


Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Lower cost of product than most guardrail solutions
  • Not visible from the ground
  • Can be used in some circumstance where passive solutions will not work
  • Allows for more mobility around a roof than standard anchor points
  • Must be installed by certified installers
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • OSHA competent person training required by all employees using the system
  • Inspection required before every use
  • Requires the employee to wear fall protection equipment and properly tie off to the system.
  • Ongoing purchase of PPE (harnesses, lanyards, etc.)
  • Requires valid rescue plan
  • Requires attention from management to document the above and validate that the safety plan is being followed.
  • Limits productivity to workers

Non-Penetrating Tie Off Anchor Points

Non penetrating tie off anchor point Non penetrating tie off anchor point

Solutions such as the Kee Safety Weightanka and the Guardian Hammer fit into this category of portable, non-penetrating tie off points. These products allow workers to tie off in a particular location, but gives them the freedom to move the system when it is needed elsewhere.

Costs

System Costs

$3,000 - $4,000 plus PPE, training, and administration overhead

Installation Costs

One (1) hour

Training Costs

Competent person training, system training


Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Systems are portable and can be moved
  • Relatively low cost of entry
  • Not visible from the ground
  • Does not penetrate the roof
  • OSHA competent person training required by all employees using the system
  • Inspection required before every use
  • Requires the employee to wear fall protection equipment and properly tie off to the system.
  • Ongoing purchase of PPE (harnesses, lanyards, etc.)
  • Requires valid rescue plan
  • Higher risk of incorrect use.
  • Requires attention from management to document the above and validate that the safety plan is being followed.
  • Limits productivity to workers
  • Adds additional work time to each job for setting up and tearing down the anchor point.
  • Allows limited access before needing to be repositioned.

Download the Guide

Available as a downloadable PDF.

 Downloadable PDF - Rooftop Fall Protection - Comparison

For additional reading on the difference in short-term and long-term costs between these two solutions, please see this series of posts on our web site:

Seven Ways to Save on Safety (Part 1)
Seven Ways to Save on Safety (Part 2)
Seven Ways to Save on Safety (Part 3)

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