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Rooftop Guardrail vs. Horizontal Lifelines–What’s The Best Option?

Feb 18, 2019 3:00:18 AM

A while back, we did a post titled “Why A Horizontal Lifeline May Be The Wrong Solution.”  The teaser title was click bait, but if you took the time to read the article, you came away with a simple explanation:  horizontal lifelines aren’t appropriate for low fall clearance applications where the worker can impact the ground before the system arrests the fall.  Today, we’ll compare and contrast two common solutions for rooftop applications–guardrail and horizontal lifelines.

Rooftop guardrail is an example of a passive fall protection system.  A worker can scale a ladder or open a roof hatch and immediately proceed to the work area.  There is no need to don a harness or connect to a lifeline.  What’s more, no training or annual system re-certification is required.

From an installation standpoint, our weighted base guardrail system is also your least invasive option since we don’t penetrate the roof surface.  No fall protection system should ever be labeled fool proof, but guardrail’s ease of installation–and use–often makes it the preferred rooftop fall protection option.  Guardrail is a popular solution because it is easy.

Taking all of these advantages into account, one might wonder, why would one ever select a rooftop lifeline over a guardrail system?  The answer often boils down to cost, but there is a twist.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you can protect the entire roof with a perimeter guardrail system or install a 300-foot lifeline. Larger guardrail systems carry higher upfront price tags, but the cost of annual inspection and re-certification means a lifeline is a more expensive solution over time.  Deciding between these two options comes down to how you want to invest your safety budget.  Some folks prefer to minimize upfront cost while others opt for a larger initial allocation of resources to reduce ownership costs over the long haul.

Every company has different purchasing criteria, so there is no right or wrong answer to the lifeline versus guardrail debate.  That said, it is always important to gather up all of the information before investing in rooftop fall protection.  To discuss an application, or to learn more about how to protect your employees while working at heights, contact Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.