Making flat roofing sites safer

In light of new HSE Construction Regulations, Alan Galloway, Sales Director of IKO Roofing Specification, gives us some hints and tips on how to make flat roofing safer.

To make the building industry safer for contractors, the HSE recently updated the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2015. The new rules, which came into force in April, cover smaller domestic work for the first time, an area where there is often a higher level of contractor accidents.

Adequate preparation beforehand, good site management and prior training all help to avoid accidents. Fire in particular is a constant threat with approximately 11 on site fires each day. While the personal cost of this can be incalculable, the financial toll can also be devastating, with the industry losing around £400m a year through fire related incidents.

With all that in mind here are three things we can do to reduce health and safety risks happening on-site in the first place.

Working with manufacturers or suppliers right from the start of a project is a crucial part of ensuring you have the right roofing system for the job and to help minimise risk. British manufacturers are expected to work closely with contractors to make sure they have the right training and skills to install the relevant products before they begin the job.

A key step at the start of a project is to consider organising a manufacturer or supplier consultation that looks at all the aspects of the proposed system. They can thoroughly survey the condition of the roof to produce a bespoke specification that covers vital aspects of what is required, such as thermal performance, wind loading and condensation risk – along with advice on how to comply with Building Regulations.

Joining an approved contractor scheme is a good way of getting access to the comprehensive training, support and technical advice that is necessary to ensure installation is managed to the highest standards.

Another good tip here is to use a supplier who will support you right through installation – something that’s essential if you are using a product backed by a long-term guarantee.

Over the last twenty years the number of onsite fires does seem to have reduced, and this is partly down to the introduction of products that reduce risk. After all, health and safety shouldn’t just be the preserve of architects and contractors – it’s up to manufacturers to step up to the plate too.
Technological advances such as built-in smart heat shields are designed to minimise the spread of flames. Some of the latest bitumen membranes use built-in fire retardants such as Graphite Firewall Technology, tested to the highest UK and European Standards. When it’s exposed to heat, the graphite expands through the coating to form a heat shield. It reduces the dripping of a burning coating while maintaining its primary waterproofing function.

You can install cold applications without any hot bonding bitumen or naked flame at all. These include liquid applied roofing systems, single ply and specifically engineered bituminous membranes. They can be adhered, ballasted, mechanically fixed or self-adhesive and are quick, clean and safe to install. You also benefit from less fumes, CO2 emissions and reduced insurance premiums.

And, we’re not talking about a Prius! It’s common on bigger or more complicated jobs to use a Torch on System for the majority of the work and then something else for the more fiddly bits like up stands and abutments. However, if incorrectly installed this can cause problems where the two systems meet. Being consistent and using products from one manufacturer for the same job is the best way to avoid complications like this cropping up. Some manufacturers advise on compatible ‘hybrid systems’ where two different technologies can be used for optimum performance or to overcome particular problems. This can help deal with intricate detailing or remove the need for flame on a particular section of the job where there may be a particular area of risk.

Ultimately, being safe is about choosing the right product for the job, considering the risks and identifying potential danger areas. If you’d like to get some advice on the options and technology available to help make your site safer, you can look to manufacturers or suppliers to support and assist you – whether that be through training, consultation, survey or product selection… help is at hand.