Freestanding roof handrails are increasingly used to secure roof edges from falls. We have written extensively about the advantages of this type of safety system compared to personal protective equipment (PPE) in a previous post. In this post, we want to dispel any doubts about when to use EN 14122-3 standard, and when to use EN 13374, for this type of collective protection equipment (CPE).

Freestanding roof handrails – legal basis

The relevant regulations governing edge protection against falls from height using freestanding roof handrails are European standards:

  • EN ISO 14122-3 on ‘Safety of machinery – Permanent means of access to machinery – Part 3: Stairs, stepladders and guardrails’.
  • EN ISO 13374 on “Temporary edge protection systems — Product specification — Test methods”.

In addition, when it comes to protecting roofs from falls from height, it should always be borne in mind that European Directive 89/391/EEC, which lays down the principles of preventive action, prioritizes CPE over personal protective equipment (PPE). The regulations clearly state that lifeline safety systems and anchor points EN ISO 795 should only be used when it is not possible to use collective protection equipment, such as safety railings. The reason is simple, roof guardrails, as passive fall protection systems, exclude employee’s decision to ensure themselves or not.

European standard EN 14122-3 – permanent roof protection

In most cases, the installation of freestanding roof handrails is intended to permanently secure the roof edge. By installing safety roof railings, we ultimately want to protect all people moving across the roof for the entire lifetime of the building. This involves jobs such as:

  • Snow removal from the roof
  • Inspection, maintenance and repair of equipment located on the roof
  • Repairing works on the roof

In this case, when we talk about permanent roof protection by means of freestanding roof handrails, it is absolutely necessary to apply European standard EN 14122-3 – Permanent means of access to machinery. Any kind of roof railings intended to provide permanent protection against falling from the roof, should be installed and certified in accordance with the above-mentioned European standard. In this respect, it is very important to check the maximum uprights distance allowed by the manufacturer in their technical documentation, as well as in tests carried out by accredited bodies according to EN 14122-3 standard.

European standard EN 13374 – temporary roof protection

As stated in the preface of the aforementioned standard: “Temporary edge protection systems are used in construction work, primarily to prevent people and objects from falling to a lower level from roofs, edges, stairs and other areas where protection is required.” Safety railings certified according to EN 13374 are often used during the construction of reinforced concrete structures, building floors, bridges, viaducts, flyovers, etc. These are often guardrails that are easily dismantled, and are removed from the edges according to the work schedule on site.

Of course, it is possible to use freestanding roof handrails certified to EN 13374 to secure roofs, but we must always bear in mind the temporary nature of the above European standard highlighted both in the title of the standard and repeatedly in the text. The use of EN 13374 certified safety railings should be limited to certain activities occasionally carried out on the roof, such as:

  • repairing certain areas of the roof
  • painting of equipment located on the roof
  • partial renewal of the roof covering

When freestanding roof handrails are used temporarily according to EN 13374 standard, usually only those parts of the roof where work is temporarily carried out are secured. In this way, as construction work progresses, the safety railings move to the area we want to secure next.

Abuse of EN 13374 standard

In many cases, the only reason why freestanding roof handrails are certified according to EN 13374 standard is because, as a temporary edge protection standard, the tests are much less demanding than with EN 14122-3 standard – permanent roof protection. As an example, the static load resistance of freestanding roof handrails in the case of EN 13374 standard is much lower than according with EN 14122-3.

Very often, the EN 13374 standard used for freestanding roof handrails is only intended to increase the upright distance and in this, reduce the cost of the safety railings in large projects.

Final conclusions

While the purpose of a freestanding roof handrail is not to secure a temporary work but to permanently protect the roof edge during the entire life of the building, we should always install freestanding roof handrails certified according to EN 14122-3 standard. The best way to ensure that our installation complies with current regulations is to request a plan from the safety railing manufacturer confirming that the positioning of the roof protection uprights complies with EN 14122-3 standard.

If you want to keep informed about securing the roof edge with safety railings, read our posts on this topic here.

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AITANA SAFETY started its activities in the field of fall protection over 10 years ago. From the beginning of our activity, we have been promoting the use of collective protection systems. Thanks to our own engineering department, we design, deliver and assemble custom-made solutions ensuring safety work at heights.