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Rooftop Safety Trends – Raising the Bar on Rooftop Safety Compliance

Rooftop Safety Trends – Raising the Bar on Rooftop Safety Compliance

Canadian Roofing Contractors Association interviewed Vernon Ghinn, our VP of roof safety specialists, to chat about the future of height safety and its impact on regulations.


The building design process includes many considerations for serving the occupants working or living within it. And often, the technology required to optimize the building’s safety, comfort, and efficiency end up being installed on the roof. These components may be necessary, but any piece of equipment added to the rooftop poses a degree of risk for those who may need to work in that space. And with rooftop footprints and configurations in constant flux, safety considerations cannot fall through the cracks.

“Like every building component, roof footprint, features, and conditions can evolve; these changes can introduce challenges with accessing equipment,” says Vernon Ghinn, a roof access and safety specialist at Skyline Group. “That’s why rooftop safety isn’t a set it and forget it responsibility; it is something that should be reviewed and improved upon quarterly to ensure you’re staying in compliance and keeping everyone safe.”


Working at height comes with numerous risks. More and more, those risks include having to navigate access points (e.g., ladders or hatches) or rooftop equipment (e.g., HVAC systems, ducts, solar panels) that have been installed throughout the roof and – more frequently – near roof edges.

For example, says Ghinn, “At times, rooftop units are installed at the edge because that happens to be the quickest and easiest location for the installers to place the unit. However, the challenge lies in servicing those units, as a safety solution will be required to create a safe perimeter and working environment.”

Roofing layouts can also pose risks. For instance, flat industrial and commercial roofs can become slippery to walk on when wet depending on the roofing membrane.
Added to these traditional hazards are the ones that appear over time. For example, building upgrades that affect the roof structure and design can also impact its elevations, requiring new roof safety equipment and considerations.

“That’s why it is important to understand the future state of your roof and how the roof is being accessed,” says another safety rep with Skyline. “Corridors are provided inside the building for safe access, so the same consideration should be given to the safety personnel required to keep the building running while accessing the roof.”

Another trend impacting roof safety is that rooftops are becoming more crowded. As land prices rise and available space in populated areas decreases, organizations optimize their investment by making use of their open space. Some of that focus is being turned to rooftops, where building operators turn their rooftop into a publicly accessed area (e.g., a garden or patio) or invest in energy-efficient technologies (e.g., green roofs or solar panels). The result is a very busy environment that requires safer access to all roof areas and increased awareness of common rooftop safety hazards.

“Ultimately, it is important that your roof access and safety solutions stay up to speed with your roof as it goes through different transformations,” adds a Skyline rep.

Roof Guardrail


As building envelopes adapt, so do safety compliance obligations. This is also true of roof and height safety standards, which are constantly adapting to reflect emerging hazards.

“The number of roof fall-related injuries is alarming, so it’s only natural that local and national standards are getting stricter,” says the Skyline safety rep, explaining, “Today, more and more third-party service providers have their own safety guidelines that prevent employees from working on roofs unless the right safety equipment and protocols are in place.”

Aligning with such standards is a critical challenge, especially since failing to keep a building compliant or ensure an installation meets local safety guidelines can lead to severe injuries and costly liabilities. As such, it’s important to recognize hazards as they emerge and never lose sight of one’s safety responsibilities.

“It’s about accessing the roof safely, while working in a hazard-free environment, in order to get back down from the roof safely,” says Ghinn, adding, “The fact is that the number of roof fall-related injuries is alarming, meaning there is room to improve on safety. The good news, though, is that the risks we’re seeing out there today can be mitigated with the right partners and height safety solutions that are readily available.”


No doubt, modern rooftop hazards require modern safety solutions. For example, says the Skyline rep: “We see too many access ladders that are cut short at the bottom, requiring an extension ladder to gain access to the actual roof access ladder itself. This is often done to restrict roof ladder access to the public, but climbing a small ladder to grab the roof access ladder and then climb onto it is simply dangerous. That’s why we developed a lockable gate to block the first five-plus feet of steps and restrict unwanted access.”

The ability to manufacture ladders, guardrails, roof catwalks, and various other rooftop safety solutions in modular sections is also beneficial for today’s contractors. These solutions can be transported to the roof via a service elevator versus renting a crane, while also being installed in a fraction of the time. All while offering the capability to customize a solution that best fits the needs of the roof and local guidelines.

“The savings become quite substantial for all parties,” says Skyline’s rep, explaining, “Our non-penetrating permanent guardrail system, for example, is designed to be modular, making it quick and simple to install without needing to fasten into the existing roof frame. This eliminates the need to reseal the roof membrane for old or newly warranted roofs after an installation.”

Protecting workers and staying in compliance means understanding your rooftop hazards before heading up onto the roof, while having a solution in place to mitigate the risks as they unfold. After all, adds Ghinn, “Nobody should discover safety by accident.”

Roof Guardrail

Spirit of York Distillery Getting Into The Spirit of Height Safety

Spirit of York Distillery Getting Into The Spirit of Height Safety

Toronto Based York Distillery

The vision for Spirit of York Distillery was always a big, bold, aspirational, enduring goal – to craft some of the world’s most premium, best-tasting spirits. Toronto is a world-class city, deserving of world-class spirits. Capable of rivalling those made in any other primary market or city. Spirit of York is that spirit.

The Spirit of York Distillery team is passionate, spirited, and determined to bring something unique to the table. Through a spirit of collaboration, they’ve distilled these premium spirits down to their very DNA and essence. To produce a premium, distinctive spirit. They’ve all had a hand in turning Spirit of York into the success it is today. Each bottle is proudly filled and sealed by hand at the distillery.

Custom Safety Requirements

Spirit of York Distillery required a height safety solution to gain access to a 10-foot by 10-foot four-story tower housing their equipment. Woodbecker Inc., a construction management and general contractor, worked with our team of height safety specialists to have an elegant, safe, and compliant access ladder with an aluminum walkway system designed.

Rooftop Safety

An Elegant Height Safety Solution

We can talk about what we designed for the distillery or let James Becker, owner of Woodbecker Inc., speak about his experience.

Replacement of a non-compliant wood guardrail & crossover system

Replacement of a non-compliant wood guardrail & crossover system

Toronto Commercial Rooftop

The McDonald’s Canadian corporate headquarters is located at 1 McDonald’s Place in Toronto. Lennard Commercial Realty manages the commercial property. Their extensive experience and broad expertise, topped by their key connections, make them a great partner for large and small organizations.

Rooftop Safety Plan

To expedite the need for service on their HVAC systems, the original structure was manufactured on-site out of wood. Fast forward a few years later, and Lennard Commercial Realty’s maintenance team had a few safety concerns with their rooftop safety plan and the walkway wood structure. The team identified that the wood structure was non-compliant with local height safety guidelines. It was ultimately rotting away due to the snow and rain penetrating the wood. With the building also being 11 stories high, the structure was subject to high winds, making the walkway and platform system unstable during windy weather.

Lennard’s facility maintenance team was concerned with the current structure not meeting local safety guidelines, ultimately rendering it non-compliant. Even if the system were in perfect condition, it still wouldn’t be considered compliant as it does not meet local height safety regulations.

The facility maintenance team was looking for a permanent solution to provide safe access to the building’s extensive HVAC system. Lennard reached out to our rooftop safety specialists to discuss their safety goals below.

  • The requirement for a permanent solution.
  • The system to be powder coated with a customer yellow color to match the rest of the building and roof.
  • A stocked solution as a quick turnaround would be required.
  • A solution that would be quick and easy to install.
  • An anti-slip walkway and crossover system.
  • A solution that meets both local and TSSA height safety guidelines.
Skyline Ladders
Skyline Ladders

Roof Safety Audit Delivers Results

We worked with a local contractor, High Tech Communications, to conduct an on-site roof audit. Virtual and on-site safety audits are fulfilled complimentary by our team and help provide a great deal of context and direction when creating a customized rooftop safety solution.

Our team delivered a custom walkway and crossover solution that not only met the requirements listed above but surpassed them.

  • All drawings were stamped by engineering and included solutions that would yield a 4-week turnaround.
  • The system met all local and TSSA guidelines, ensuring a compliant safety solution.
  • Perforated walkways and steps to ensure maximum grip during the winter months.
  • The system was fully modular, making it easy to install on-site. This helped in reducing the overall installation costs of the solution.
  • The walkway, platforms and guardrails are all manufactured in aluminum. This lightweight material made it easy and less costly to transport the material to the roof.
  • With the system being self-ballasted, the unit was not required to penetrate the roof membrane. This eliminated the need for repairs to reseal any holes the installation would have made.

Toronto Community Housing Upgrades Rooftop Safety to Meet TSSA Regulations

Toronto Community Housing Upgrades Rooftop Safety to Meet TSSA Regulations

Toronto Community Housing

The Toronto Community Housing is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America. They are wholly owned by the City of Toronto and operate in​ a non-profit manner. Toronto Community Housing has 2,100 buildings​ and 50 million square feet of residential space, which represent a $9 billion public asset.

Toronto Community Housing homes and communities are in 106 of Toronto’s 140 neighborhoods, providing homes to nearly 60,000 low and moderate-income households. Their 110,000 residents come from many different backgrounds with a diversity in age, education, language, mental and physical disability, religion, ethnicity and race.

Eliminating Rooftop Hazard

Rooftop Safety

The Toronto Community Housing was looking for a budget friendly solution to meet the strict rooftop safety requirements of the TSSA. In order for the TSSA to service both the mechanical penthouses and electrical transformer located on the roof, a safe passage would need to be created from both the north and south wing roof access points to the mechanical penthouse. With the roof having no guardrail or parapet at least 42” in height, the full length of the walkway (on both sides) would require guardrail system to eliminate any rooftop hazards.

Skyline Ladders

Compliant Safety Solution

The Toronto Community Housing was looking for a long lasting and non-penetrating solution that would be used in conjunction with their current paver walkway system. It was important that the units be tested by a third party, ensuring compliance, while being aesthetically pleasing. A non-penetrating RoofBarrier system was the perfect solution for their needs. Not only does the Skyline Group RoofBarrier system surpass Canadian rooftop safety standards, it’s galvanized steel material will ensure it looks new even after years of usage. Unique to the Skyline Group RoofBarrier system, it’s modular design and lightweight material made it easy and cost effective for the general contractors during installation. While also making it a budget friendly solution.

Looking For A Rooftop Safety Solution That Meets Hurricane Loadings

Looking For A Rooftop Safety Solution That Meets Hurricane Loadings

Bristol Myers

Bristol Myers Squibb believes in the power of science to address some of the most challenging diseases of our time. Their focus on these unmet needs comes during a remarkable time when unprecedented scientific breakthroughs are advancing the treatment of disease as never before in human history.

They work every day to transform patients’ lives through science. Each day, their employees worldwide work together to meet the needs of their patients. Bristol combines the agility of biotech with the reach and resources of an established pharmaceutical company to create a global leading biopharma company powered by talented individuals who drive scientific innovation.

With numerous advancements in oncology, hematology, immunology, and cardiovascular disease, they are dedicated to helping patients prevail over serious diseases.

Rooftop Safety

Safety Challenge Requiring Experience

The 460,000 square foot facility on 33 acres produces biologics medicines and Coumadin. Bristol reached out to our rooftop safety specialists to better understand their rooftop safety needs and ensure compliance on a crowded roof. With various large HVAC units, ducts, pipes and more, Bristol was looking to ensure that these RTUs (rooftop units) could be easily maintained. There are many rooftop guardrail, crossover and access ladder providers in North America that can help with meeting safety compliance, although the company was looking for;
  • A modular solution that is quick and easy for the contractor to install.
  • One single supplier that can help provide the required roof safety products and be actively involved in delivering stamped drawings for the basis of design.
  • Has experience working on large-scale design projects, as this project was valued at over $500,000.
  • Can incorporate an aesthetically pleasing guardrail design, limiting visibility from the ground.
  • Most importantly, be certified by a third party to meet hurricane loading requirements. While still requiring a non-penetrating solution to minimize roof damage, repairs, and potential leakage.

Transforming Rooftop Safety

Our team proposed a solution comprised of various galvanized non-penetrating 5003 Series RoofBarrier systems, aluminum crossovers and access ladders. In some areas of the roof, where ducts were located on the edge of the roof, we proposed a fixed guardrail system alongside the parapet. Here is what our solution was able to solve.

  • The 5003 series is considered to be an architectural guardrail. It is a non-penetrating self-ballasted guardrail comprised of curved handrails, making the bars invisible when at ground level.
  • Its modular design and lightweight material ensured a quick and easy installation. While also offering the opportunity to grow their safety needs further, as the roof plans expand to meet production requirements.
  • Our company prides itself on being a one-stop shop to making rooftop safety access and compliance easy. With thousands of projects under our belt and years of experience working with contractors, engineers, consultants and building owners, Bristol felt at ease working with our height specialists.
  • Create a safe passage around the roof, along with to and from each roof access point.
  • We were one of the only suppliers to test this custom non-penetrating guardrail system with up to 60-mile winds with a third party to meet hurricane loading requirements for the area.

Lansdowne Heritage Horticulture Building Keeps its Charm with A Safety Guardrail and Access Ladder

Lansdowne Heritage Horticulture Building Keeps its Charm with A Safety Guardrail and Access Ladder

Ottawa Heritage Building

Lansdowne Park is a world class attraction that blends modern amenities, courtyards, heritage buildings and green space. This urban public destination, situated right in the heart of Ottawa city, offers programs on a year-round basis. It features events and activities for all ages, regardless of the season.

Located in Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, the Horticulture Building was erected over nine weeks in 1914 to serve as a venue for the Central Canada Exhibition’s annual horticulture show. It replaced an earlier Horticultural Hall built-in 1899. For 75 years, it was also used as a curling venue during the winter. The Horticulture Building is the only building in Ottawa designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act three times and to have had its designation revoked twice.

The design of the Horticulture Building is attributed to architect Francis Conroy Sullivan (1882-1929), although the drawings were prepared by the office of architect Allan Keefer (1883-1952), another local architect. The exact roles played by each architect are unknown.

Keeping The Building's Charm

The Horticulture Building houses a restaurant and public reception spaces that are rented out for both private and community events. The City of Ottawa was looking for a non-intrusive means of bringing the building’s rooftop up to today’s safety standards. The rooftop HVAC systems are located close to the roof edge, ultimately making it a high-risk rooftop hazard when looking to have the units maintained. Walking on the TPO membrane roof, even when over 6 feet away from the roof edge, isn’t ideal as the material is quite slippery when wet, creating a potential fall hazard all year round. Keeping the history of the building intact while meeting the building load requirements was a must, as no upgrades to reinforce the roof of the building would be approved.

A Non-Intrusive Roof Safety Solution

The architect and general contractor reached out to our team of rooftop safety experts to conduct an on-site safety audit. Once the on-site visit was completed the team recommended an aluminum safety solution comprised of various guardrails, walkways, and a fixed ladder system. The rooftop safety solution yielded a;

  • Quick and easy installation with its modular design.
  • Lightweight design and material, eliminating the need for extra support to meet the load requirements.
  • Non-slip raised walkway, creating a safe passage to and from the HVAC units.
  • Non-corrosive aluminum material, ensuring the solution looks like new for years to come.
  • Non-penetrating rooftop system, keeping the building’s heritage intact.


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