Do's and Don'ts of Rooftop Walkway Pads

walkway pads on flat roof surface

It is common to see paths present on flat rooftops. They are visible by laying down pavers, rubber mats, or something similar, and they meander around the entirety of the roof. Once you have accessed the roof, ideally this path or walkway will lead you to the necessary areas.

Can you rely on this for your fall protection needs?

Simply put, no. Walkway pads typically are used to reduce wear and tear on the roof surface or direct traffic on a roof. With that said, it is common for people to think of these pads as a way to protect themselves from hazards. Fall protection may not have been the original intent.

Walkway pads can be a form of administrative control. Meaning given the right set of circumstances it may integrate well into a fall protection plan. Circumstances may include items like sufficient training, a competent person being present at all times, walkway pads being combined with other forms of fall protection, etc.

The problem that we have seen is that walkway pads are rarely set up with fall protection in mind. It is likely that they are aligned with efficiency as its primary goal. We all know that the fastest way between point A and point B is a straight line. However, what about when that line brings you within 15’ of an edge?

In this industry, we have seen it all. We have seen walkway pads running parallel to the edge, not 2’ away, pads directing people straight off the edge of the roof, and countless dead ends with no visible purpose.

Here are a few suggestions on how to set up rooftop walkway pads with fall protection in mind.

  1. Make sure walkways start at your point/s of access.

    If these are to be effective, you need direction as soon as you step through your self-closing gate. If you need to explore to find the path, then you are at risk until you do.

  2. Confirm the walkway will be visible.

    Refrain from using anything that is similar in color to your existing roof. A path is useless if you have a hard time seeing it.

  3. Keep walkways away from the edge or hazard!

    Always point your pads away from the hazards. There will be times when the area needing access is near an edge. In those cases, you must have alternative forms of fall protection available .

  4. Keep walkways as simple as possible.

    No one wants to get lost while on top of a roof. With the sizes of some manufacturing buildings, this is a reality. Signage can be useful, however, be mindful of the complexity of the layout.

If you ever find yourself at risk by staying on your walkway pads, get off the roof immediately and bring it to the attention of a superior or safety officer. Though they may never have been intended as a means of fall protection, if they influence you towards danger it must be addressed. Consider a safer rooftop walkway system.

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