Are guards or barriers required for access rooflights?

Since in many installations, an access rooflight creates a hole in a surface where people will be walking, safety is a crucial consideration.

Approved Document K provides guidance for meeting the Building Regulations regarding protection from falling, collision and impact in and around a building.

Section 3 specifically addresses protection from falling and describes situations where safety barriers may be required in regards to rooflight installations.

It states that guarding should be provided “where it is reasonably necessary for safety to guard the edges of any part of a floor (including the edge below an opening window), gallery, balcony, roof (including rooflights and other openings), any other place to which people have access, and any light well, basement or similar sunken area next to a building”.

Barrier height

The height of the barrier will depend on the type of building in question and the location of the barrier.

In a single family dwelling, for example, the minimum height requirement will be 900mm on stairs, landings, ramps and edges of internal floors and 1,100 mm for external balconies and roof edges.

Design requirements

A barrier doesn’t always have to be installed. With careful specification and planning of the access rooflight, as well as its placement, it may be possible to use existing walls or even the hinged door of the rooflight itself, as suitable barriers.

Approved Document K states that any wall, parapet, balustrade or similar obstruction can be used as guarding, so long as it meets the minimum height requirements and can resist appropriate loads. If the element to be used as a barrier or guard is glazed, then it will need to comply with Approved Document N in relation to safety glass.

Further guidance on the design of barriers and infill panels can be found in BS 6180.

In locations that may be used by children under five years of age during normal use, the guarding needs to meet a few additional requirements. For example, horizontal rails should be avoided to prevent children from being able to climb the barrier. The guard should also be designed so that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through any openings.

To find out more about safety requirements when specifying rooflights, download our whitepaper: Approved Document K and Access Rooflights: A specifier’s guide to designing for roof access in dwellings.