Pedestrian And Occupant Safety And Scaffolding… Specifying Protection

May 15, 2006

Building owners or their specified
agents are responsible for protecting pedestrians
passing, entering, or simply hanging
around their buildings. They are also
responsible for providing egress from buildings
in case of emergency, regardless of
what type of work is going on outside of the
building. Roofing operations above cannot
block or make exits unsafe to use.
The roof consultant can and must specify
protection for pedestrians to protect both
their own liability and that of the building
owner/manager. What choices does the
consultant have when specifying protection
for pedestrians and building occupants as
they pass by or exit a building? What are
the risks associated with each type of protection
for buildings and pedestrians? This
article focuses on protection of pedestrians
through various types of falls and discusses
code requirements that point to specifying
protection for pedestrians and others who
come close to roofing operations.
The roofing profession is a very interesting
trade. The people who participate are
from all walks of life, all education levels,
and perform very different tasks.
Roofing workers install products in the
field to make them into roofing systems.
They endure some of the most difficult
working conditions of all the trades in construction
today. Many roofing workers
receive training from their employers, while
others participate in multi-year apprentice
programs leading to journeyman status.
Roofers’ work environments are those of
extremes, from the heat of 100ºF summers
to the brutal chill of winter. Wind, rain, and
varying temperatures are part of their
everyday lives. Couple that with the dangers
of always working above everything else –
from 10-foot heights to the tallest high-rise
roofs, 100 stories in the air. Materials are
heavy and often applied with heat, or
mopped with bitumen at 400ºF temperatures.
Understanding these conditions, it’s
easy to see how roofers are most likely
enduring the hardest working conditions in
the construction trade.
Contractor personnel manage the
process from procuring work through final
inspection, providing a leak-free roofing
system. And, as can be expected, many of
the same disciplines that are found in corporate
structures – accounting, operations,
purchasing, personnel, etc. – are all
wrapped up in a roofing contractor firm.
Consultants must endure most of the
same conditions as the roofer and contractor.
Their “office” is the roof during the time
they must supervise roofers’ work. In the
dead of winter and the heat of summer,
these professionals, with varied backgrounds
from former roofers, contractors,
and manufacturers’ representatives to engineers
and architects, endure the same conditions
without the heavy lifting of materials
or manual labor associated with the
All these players must find ways to protect
against risks to their safety and those
of the general public. Fall protection is of
utmost importance to protect the health,
safety, and life of each participant in the
roofing industry.
Safety lines are sometimes used by
roofers, contractors, and consultants.
Safety fencing protects workers from the
edge of the building, where fall-off risk is
huge. These ropes and harness systems,
tied off to structural systems, provide a stop
for workers who may lose their footing and
start sliding on a roof surface. The advantage
of safety lines is that they perform an
important function, stopping someone from
falling completely off a roof. A possible failure
mode might be that a “tying off” occurs
onto a less-than-secure structural support,
rendering the harness useless. Also, if the
person exceeds the weight limit of either the
Scaffolding secures building perimeter, allowing safe egress. Photo by GILCO. harness or structural tie-off system, falling
22 • I N T E R FA C E NO V E M B E R 2006
could occur. Also, productivity may decrease
if mobility is affected.
Parapet walls designed for aesthetic reasons
may also serve a secondary purpose as
safeguards against materials falling from
higher areas, while serving as the final stop
point before a fall. The advantage of a parapet
wall is that it can serve as a primary or
secondary support for workers. As primary
protection, parapets free the worker to possibly
work without a harness, increasing
productivity for the worker. However, aesthetically,
the parapet may not fit the design
philosophy of the building.
Finally, scaffolding can play a vital role
in protecting both workers on the roof and
the general public entering and exiting
buildings. Scaffolding can protect building
visitors and occupants from falling debris,
while protecting workers as a line of defense
against falling from roof surfaces.
Everyone is susceptible to falling. All it
takes is one mistake, large or small. Loose
gravel or slippery rooftop surfaces could
also cause a fall.
Regardless of whether it’s new construction
or re-roofing, a high-, mid-, or low-rise
building, protection for roofing workers,
building occupants and visitors is important
to us all. Safe work practice should be
ingrained into the company culture.
Leading firms conduct safety seminars for
all their people, office to field, so everyone
“gets it.”
Protection of the public and building
occupants makes good business sense. As
our economy continues to become more
global, safe, unfettered access to businesses
for uninterrupted operation becomes
paramount. In years past, buildings could
be re-roofed during shutdowns or summer
breaks. With buildings in use 12 months
per year for community activities, school
operations, and revenue-generating business
activities, more and more roofing work
is taking place while the building is open for
business. In new construction, developers
are starting to demand that the building
open lower floors for occupancy as the
building is constructed above, creating
more risk to the public of falling materials
and debris.
With all these dynamics in mind, the
design professional and building management
must plan how the building will
remain open during both new construction
and renovation. Safe egress and passage
around buildings are required by the
International Building Code. Consult with
the local Authority Having Jurisdiction
(AHJ) about opening buildings before all is
final in the building construction. Codes
and enforcement in the U.S. are “thought
nationally, and acted upon locally.” The
local AHJ is the final say on code issues.
Certainly, with a code requirement to
protect occupants from debris, workers,
and objects during new construction and
renovation, significantly more safety planning
must take place to protect the general
public from the risks of roofing installation
operations taking place above entrances
and exits and around the building periphery.
It also makes good business sense to
protect continuity of operations through
some investment in either building design
and/or safety. Scaffolding can provide protection
for pedestrians from the hazards of
having people working above, possibly fulfill
a primary code requirement for egress and
passage, and provide the huge gain in worker
safety that comes with scaffold protection
at the perimeter of a building.
Simply put, no or low parapet walls
means greater fall potential for an errant
piece of material from the roof operation or
to the person who looses his or her footing
accidentally, or if the primary fall protection
NO V E M B E R 2006 I N T E R FA C E • 2 3
malfunctions. Scaffolding used to protect
the perimeter of a structure can add safeguards
against dangers to the building
occupants and visitors to the structure as
they pass by, enter, or exit the building.
For the building owner and manager in
both new construction and re-roofing, there
are some very tangible benefits to scaffold
protection. First and foremost is the ability
to provide a secure perimeter for the structure.
This provides continuity of operations
to those who own or are tenants of the
building. It’s also less likely there will be an
injury for the building owner, manager, contractor,
or consultant with a secure perimeter,
keeping incidents and resulting insurance
rates low. This, in turn, helps keep the
companies in the chain of command competitive.
Scaffolding also secures the
perimeter of the building against debris,
worker tools, and equipment or people
falling into the egress or pedestrian passageways.
All this means less potential liability
for all.
Over the years, reasons why a consultant
cannot specify a “safety item,” such as
scaffolding, have been raised. Questions
abound whether the consultant is overstepping
into specifying methods and means for
the contractor to complete his work. In a
way, one could construe that the specifying
professional is dictating which method to
use for constructing the roof. However,
there are valid arguments to the contrary.
There is a code requirement for building
occupant egress from structures in emergency
situations, while a compelling business
need exists to have the structure open
during roofing operations. Therefore, due
diligence must be performed to provide safe
egress and passage of occupants. This is
the responsibility of both the design professional
and building owner or manager.
In 2000, three model codes in the U.S.
merged into one organization, the
International Code Council (ICC). The ICC
produces several codes, including the
International Fire Code (IFC), International
Plumbing Code (IPC), International Mechanical
Code (IMC), International Building
Code (IBC), International Existing Buildings
Code (IEBC), and the International Property
Maintenance Code (IPMC). Municipalities
have been reviewing both the ICC codes and
NFPA 5000, the comparable code produced
by the National Fire Protection Association.
Many have adapted the new ICC codes. Visit
to learn more.
The IBC, IEBC, and
IPMC have much to say,
throughout several chapters,
about the requirement
for public safety.
IBC Chapter 10 is the
area that communicates
“Means of Egress” requirements
to various responsible
parties – from
building owners and
managers to architects and roof consultants.
Chapter 1002 mentions definitions for
the terms used for means of egress. Since
the events of September 11, 2001, it’s evident
that protection of the public is as
important once they have exited from the
building as it is exiting from the inside.
Here’s what the IBC, IEBC, and IPMC
codes have to say (plain text is code language;
the authors’ commentary is in italics):
Scaffolding allows building operations to continue while work takes place above. Photo by
Knickerbocker Roofing.
Right and Below: Scaffolding provides safety from falling
debris to those below. Photo by Knickerbocker Roofing.
24 • I N T E R FA C E NO V E M B E R 2006
Chapter 10 – MEANS OF EGRESS
• 1002 – Definitions
— Exit Passageway – “an exit component
that is separated from all
other interior spaces of a building
or structure by fire-resistance-
rated construction and
other opening protectives and
provides for a protected path of
egress travel in a horizontal
direction to the exit discharge or
the public way…” Note “protected
path of egress travel… to the public
way.” If danger exists in the
passage, there could be a code
violation against requirements for
— Exit – That portion of a means of
egress system that is separated
from other interior spaces of a
building or structure by fireresistance-
rated construction
and opening protectives as
required providing a protected
path of egress travel between the
exit access and the exit discharge.
Exit includes exterior
exit doors at ground level, exit
enclosures, exit passageways,
exterior exit ramps, and horizontal
• 1007.2. Continuity and Components
– Each required accessible
means of egress shall be continuous
to a public way and shall consist of
one or more of the following components….
Accessible routes complying
with 1104 (Accessible routes).
Chapter 11 – ACCESSIBILITY –
Scaffolding protects the disabled from
debris at the exit discharge, a key component
in safe passage from a structure.
Chapter 15 – ROOF ASSEMBLIES and
ROOFTOP STRUCTURES. In this chapter,
there is no requirement for safe
egress and passage from a building. This
chapter is focused on roofing requirements
for public safety, health, and welfare
as described in the code.
CONSTRUCTION. This chapter governs
safety during the construction process.
• 3301.1 Scope – The provisions of
this chapter shall govern safety during
construction and the protection
of adjacent public and private properties.
High density areas means
protection of more people; more risk
of injury from debris means more due
diligence by the building owner and
design professional, as they have
significant responsibility in protecting
the public.
• 3302 Construction Safeguards
— 3302.1 – Required exits, existing
structural elements, fire protection
devices, and sanitary safeguards
shall be maintained at all
times during remodeling, alterations,
repairs, or additions to
any building or structure…except
when the building is unoc-
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NO V E M B E R 2006 I N T E R FA C E • 2 5
Scaffolding for difficult applications. Photo
by Knickerbocker Roofing.
cupied, or…when adequate substitute
provisions shall be made.
The Code is clear that exits must
be maintained at all times during
remodeling, etc. This is an important
piece that means the consultant,
building owner, and manager
are totally responsible for safe
egress from the building…and
passage to safety once out of the
• 3303 – Demolition – Construction
documents and schedule of demolition
must be submitted when
required by the building official.
— 3303.2 Pedestrian Protection –
work of demolishing any building
shall not be commenced
until pedestrian protection is in
place as required by this chapter….
The building official may
require scaffolding for protection,
but there is no language that
demands the method.
• 3306 – Protection of Pedestrians
— 3306.1 – Protection Required.
Pedestrians shall be protected
during construction, remodeling,
and demolition activities as
required by this chapter and
table 3306.1. Signs shall be provided
to direct pedestrian traffic.
Here, it’s clear that the structure
needs to provide protection to
those who enter, exit, and pass.
— Table 3306.1 This table shows
that when construction height is
8 feet or less, and when construction
is less than 5 feet from
the construction to lot line, construction
railings are needed.
None for greater than 5 feet. For
construction over 8 feet, less
than 5 feet distance from construction
to lot line, a barrier
and covered walkway are
required. The code also dictates
specific requirements for covered
walkways. See the building code
for construction demands.
— 3306.2 – Walkways – A walkway
shall be provided for pedestrian
travel in front of every construction
and demolition site unless
the authority having jurisdiction,
(AHJ) authorizes the sidewalk
to be fenced or closed. Even
using this option, the building
owner or manager may demand
the sidewalks remain open
around the clock for various business
reasons. Walkways shall be
of sufficient width to accommodate
the pedestrian traffic but no
less than 4 feet in width. Walkways
shall be provided with a
durable walking surface…accessible
[as in Chapter 11], support
all imposed loads…no less than
150 lbs/sf.
• 3310.2 – Maintenance of Exits –
Means of egress shall be maintained
at all times during construction,
demolition, remodeling, or alterations
and additions to any building.
(Scaffolding can be used to maintain
exit function and act as a working
Maintenance is the responsibility of
the building owner and [his or her] agent…manager, etc. Language in this
section discusses that the safety systems
must remain intact when renovating
structures. In other words, safe
egress must be maintained, plus safe
passage of pedestrians, per section 3306
as mentioned above.
• 3401.2 – Maintenance – Buildings
and parts thereof shall be maintained
in a safe and sanitary condition.
Devices or safeguards that are
required by this code shall be maintained
in conformance with the code
edition under which [they were] installed. The owner or owners designated
agent shall be responsible
for the maintenance of buildings
and structures. To determine compliance
with this subsection, the
building official shall have the
authority to require a building or
structure to be re-inspected. The
requirement of this chapter shall not
provide the basis for removal or
abrogation of fire protection and
safety systems and devices in existing
structures. It could be construed
that the building owner/manager
needs to assure safety to all, wherever
they ar,e in and around the
structure. Scaffolding during roofing
operations could help reduce the
building owner/managers’ risk exposure
during maintenance or re-roofing
For re-roofing, the requirements of the
IEBC may also be invoked. The code is very
clear about protecting the public, workers,
or adjoining property.
• 1301.1 – Scope – The provisions of
this chapter shall govern the safety
during construction that is under
the jurisdiction of this code and the
protection of adjacent public and
private properties.
• 1301.2 – Storage and Placement –
Construction equipment and materials
shall be stored and placed so as
not to endanger the public, the
workers, or adjoining property for
the duration of the construction project.
• 1301.4 – Manner of Removal –
Waste materials shall be removed in
a manner that prevents injury or
damage to persons, adjoining properties,
and public rights-of-way.
Here, the code is not specific, but definitely
states that methods of
removal should be embarked upon
with great due diligence.
• 1301.6 – Protection of Pedestrians –
Pedestrians shall be protected during
construction and demolition
activities as required by sections
1301.6 through 1301.7 and Table
1301.6. Signs shall be provided to
direct pedestrian traffic.
— 1301.6.1 – Walkways – …A
walkway shall be provided for
pedestrian travel in front of every
construction and demolition site
unless the authority having
jurisdiction authorizes the sidewalk
to be fenced or closed.
Walkways shall be of sufficient
width to accommodate the pedestrian
traffic, but in no case
shall they be less than 4 feet in
width. In major cities, scaffolding
may be used to protect the walk-
26 • I N T E R FA C E NO V E M B E R 2006
Scaffolding secures residence from damage.
way area. If there’s one level
being constructed to protect the
walkway, adding height to the
scaffold system may become economically
attractive, as the crew
is already there with materials
and equipment.
• 1302.1 Protection of Adjoining
Property – Adjoining public and private
property shall be protected
from damage during construction
and demolition work. This means
that if a roof is close to another structure
and potential for damage exists,
it’s the responsibility of the owner to
protect the other structure.
The International Property Maintenance
Code governs maintenance of the structure.
Section 304 addresses the exterior of the
• 304.1 General – The exterior of a
structure shall be maintained in
good repair, structurally sound and
sanitary so as not to pose a threat to
the public health, safety, and welfare.
This is the catch-all warning
that someone in the construction
process must have done due diligence
to protect occupants, pedestrians,
and the public from danger. If
there’s one passage in the code that
shifts liability to the building owner
or manager, contractor, and consultant,
it’s this passage. “Pose no
threat to public health, safety, and
welfare” is a very broad statement.
This is really a catch-all that hits the
design professional squarely
between the eyes.
In this litigious construction environment,
if pedestrians are injured, consultants
may be brought into lawsuits, regardless
of whether or not they “appear” to be
responsible. All measures of safety should
have been explored beforehand, with viable
reasons for use of whichever method was
Design professionals may be deemed to
be in violation of code when exits become
impassable due to operations above if passageway
protection was not specified. Most
important, the building owners and managers
are expecting continuity of their tenants’
business operations during construc-
Test your knowledge of roofing with the following
questions, developed by Donald E. Bush Sr.,
RRC, FRCI, PE, chairman of the RRC Examination
Development Subcommittee.
1. When considering a
ballasted roof system,
what three techniques
are considered in the
basic wind design
strategy against
aggregate or ballast
blowoff? Chapter 7
2. How does the size of
the stone on a
ballasted roof system
assist in resisting wind
load? Chapter 7
3. How do parapets assist
in resisting wind loads
on loose-laid gravel?
Chapter 7
4. What are the basic
principles of flashing
design? Chapter 14
5. What are the four
major design factors
for a structural roof
deck? Chapter 11
Reference: Manual of Low Slope Roof
Systems, Chapters 7, 11, and 14
Answers on page 28
NO V E M B E R 2006 I N T E R FA C E • 2 7
tion. Scaffolding provides this
in a very complete way when
installed, inspected, and
maintained appropriately.
Scaffolding is an important
component in securing the
building perimeter for pedestrian
passing, egress of occupants
for general entry/exit,
and emergency evacuation of a
structure without potential for
injury from objects above.
If the structure is to receive
scaffolding for protection
of occupants and pedestrians,
here are a few recommendations
for the design professional
and contractor.
• Decide early in the reroofing
project planning
and budgeting
process to allow for
scaffolding, as it may
provide the best possible
protection to the
public health, safety,
and welfare.
• Specify qualified contractors who
are members of associations where
scaffold firms are educated, trained,
and committed to the industry.
• Determine if there are any special
certifications or accreditation programs
against which to judge roofing
or scaffolding firms. Are they
manufacturer-sponsored? Are they
code organization sponsored?
• Ensure that education is available
and implemented for both office and
field personnel.
• Make sure the firm is reputable and
has credible references.
• Determine if the contractors’ employees
are trained and licensed to
erect or work on scaffolding.
Whether it’s a church with a steep slope
or a low- or mid-rise building, there are
times to use scaffolding. Economics, protecting
public safety during passage and
egress, and providing the building owner
and manager continuity of operations for
their tenants’ businesses are key reasons
that scaffolding makes sense. Early discussions
between the building owner and roof
consultant about these important code
requirements is important. Consultants
who are looking out for their clients’ business
and liability issues can separate themselves
from the pack if they look at scaffolding
requirements as both a method to provide
safe egress and passage as well as a
benefit to protect the safety of those working
on the roof.
Scaffolding keeps retailers open.
Answers to questions on page 27:
1. a. Increasing stone size.
b. Increasing parapet height.
c. Substituting concrete pavers
for gravel.
2. Increased stone size increases the
aerodynamic force required to move
or lift the loose stones. Through a
complex interaction of forces, upward
deflection of a rolling stone combined
with increased aerodynamic wind
force, faster wind speed can blow
some stones off the roof. The
aerodynamic lifting force is a
function of wind velocity squared (V2)
and diameter of stone squared (d2).
3. Parapets shield the stones from the
wind; increased parapet height
reduces aerodynamic forces on the
stones by elevating the vortices, thus
reducing rooftop suctions.
4. a. Eliminate as many roof
penetrations as practical.
b. Consolidate as many roof
openings as possible into a
smaller number of larger
c. Locate flashed joints above the
highest water level anticipated
on the roof and provide positive
drainage away from the flashed
d. Allow for differential movement
between base and cap flashings.
e. Contour flashed surfaces to avoid
sharp bends (45˚ maximum) in
bituminous base flashings.
f. Anchor flashings securely to
5. a. Deflection
b. Component anchorage
c. Dimensional stability
d. Fire resistance
d3 =
v2 d2
Chris Cronin is president of Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving Co. Inc., a fourth generation
roofing and sheet metal company located in the Chicago area. Knickerbocker
has worked in steep- and low-slope roofing applications ranging from metal to slate and
tile. Chris can be reached at 708-339-7260.
Chris Cronin
Hunter Gilbertson is president of GILCO Scaffolding, Des Plaines, IL. He may be
reached at 847-298-1717.
Hunter Gilbertson
28 • I N T E R FA C E NO V E M B E R 2006