54 RCI 0714

RCI JULY 2014

ROOFLIGHTS & ROOF VENTS An insight into rooflight non-fragility Safely working at height has always been key and in recent months the issue of nonfragility has really come to the fore. With 40 years’ experience in the roofing industry Richard Lowe, Xtralite Rooflights’ technical services manager, discusses this in more detail We’ve seen a string of recent reports of serious injuries and in some cases, fatalities, due to some contractors and roofing contractors failing to control the risk of workers falling through fragile roofing materials including rooflights. These headlines have reiterated the importance of non-fragility not only within the roofing industry, but the wider construction professional teams too. We all know that the construction of the roof is undoubtedly one of the most hazardous operations in any build process because of the potential for falls or falling tools and materials. Coupled with that, we’ve seen demand for designing with glass soar in recent years, with stylish, contemporary structures becoming ‘the norm’ rather than a luxury, increasing the potential for serious incidents to occur. Installing large expanses of glass comes with its own challenges over and above easier to manhandle or lighter weight materials such as polycarbonates, for those working on-site. Architects, designers and building owners appear to be increasingly keen to maximise natural light within a wide range of projects across a variety of sectors, and the issue of non-fragility must be addressed hand in hand with the shift towards bolder, affordable design and general sustainability of materials. 054 JULY 2014 RCIMAG.COM Regard as fragile The National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers (NARM) states that roofing systems, together with appropriate rooflights, “…can be designed to be non-fragile even after the first fix of lining out. However until the systems are fully fixed, rooflights must be regarded as fragile.” When specifying rooflights, designers should carefully consider robustness and strength of the glazing required, and the possible dangers for employees working at heights within this context of fragility. As in all construction work, good safety standards are essential to prevent accidents. In accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM), buildings should now be designed with safety in mind, not only for the construction period, but throughout the normal life of the building. This must include considering the safety of people involved in maintenance and repair work – and even demolition. This may mean, for example, providing permanent access to the roof and walkways. When specifying rooflights, designers should carefully consider robustness and strength of the glazing required The HSE document HSG 33 Safety in Roof Work refers specifically to fragile rooflights as an example of a potential hazard which should be considered during design and construction, and “…rooflights should be designed (where possible) to project above the plane of the roof so that they cannot be walked upon…” – both of which are also key considerations stated by NARM. Like all premium rooflight manufacturers in the UK, at Xtralite we’ve followed a strict and comprehensive testing system for many years to ensure the non-fragile performance of the specified glazing. The Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) has introduced new guidelines TN92 specifying “deemed to satisfy” rooflight glazing, taking into account the possibility of any part of the roof assembly being fragile until fully fixed. The CWCT guidelines are currently best practice as opposed to mandatory. Ensuring that this specification is met does come at a cost to both customers and manufacturers, but it means that the end user benefits from an ensured level of reassurance. Not only is it imperative to take into consideration the risks associated with temporary openings during construction, but also the risks when access to the roof is needed later on in its life, for example, during maintenance or cleaning. If a contractor fails to pay attention to the complex area of the interface between the roof and rooflight, which may be the weakest part of the structure, safety problems can arise. In short, a rooflight manufacturer can design, develop and manufacture a non-fragile unit only to have this high performance compromised by careless installation. It’s vital to consider the quality of the materials you are specifying. Some imported cheaper and lower quality materials may result in glazing with unacceptable levels of performance potentially increasing the overall costs and inconvenience to the end user, as well as the obvious health and safety risks. Rooflight manufacturers have a wealth of specialist experience and information to hand, and will provide free advice, design guidance as well as site assistance prior, during and postconstruction of any building project. With fragility being such a pressing issue, always ask whoever you purchase your products from if it meets the required specification. www.xtralite.co.uk Architects, designers and building owners appear to be increasingly keen to maximise natural light “It’s vital to consider the quality of the materials you are specifying”


RCI JULY 2014
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