ROOFLIGHTS - Better quality of light: better quality of life.

May 4, 2018

NARM: A key player in supporting roof safety


Working on roofs is a high-risk activity because it involves work at height. Roofers account for 24% of all workers who are killed in falls from height while at work. Falls through fragile materials, such as older rooflights and asbestos cement roofing sheets, account for more of these deaths than any other single cause.

There are also many serious injuries, often resulting in permanent disabilities. The hazards are not, however, restricted to those working on sites. Children and other members of the public are also killed or injured because construction activities have not been adequately controlled.

As the trade association representing the UK’s rooflight industry for over twenty years, NARM, the National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers has played a major role in supporting efforts to  improve roof safety.

To understand the role that NARM has played, we need to look back over developments in roofing and roof safety over the last century.

Way back in the early 1900s, industrial and commercial buildings were being roofed with new Asbestos Cement (AC) corrugated sheets. There was no requirement to make the sheets safe to walk on, and for clarity, they were made as ‘fragile’ roof sheets with instructions not to be walked on. In the 1950s translucent profiled rooflights were introduced that matched the corrugations of the AC sheets. They were also manufactured as ‘fragile’ sheets to match the surrounding roof.

It was not until the mid 1990s that the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) stated that they wanted all roofing products to be manufactured to be ‘non-fragile’ when fixed. However they did not define what was ‘non-fragile’. It was the rooflight industry that started discussions with the HSE to establish a universal test that could be carried out by manufacturers of roofing products, that was deemed to provide a safe, non-fragile roof.  

All trade bodies associated with the manufacture of  roofs and their components formed an organisation called the Advisory Committee for Roofsafety (ACR). They took their lead from the HSE who specified the performance they required for a worker on  the roof to stumble and fall onto the roof without falling through  the roof.  A test rig was designed and the full details of the test stated in the ACR ‘Red Book’ ACR (M)001 ‘Test for Non - Fragility of Large Element Roofing Assemblies’.

From the year 2000 all UK industrial roofing has been designed to be non-fragile and it should be recognised that it was the UK rooflight industry that started this process. In fact, the rooflight industry, represented by NARM, has made more advances in safety than any other part of the roofing industry over the last 20 years. It’s important to note that during this period, we have no evidence from the HSE that anyone has died by falling through a rooflight that was built since year 2000.

It should also be recognised that as a result of the work carried out by ACR and NARM, most roofing components have also been improved and not just the rooflights. Asbestos cement sheets have evolved and are now manufactured from Fibre Cement with reinforcement strips, metal profiled sheets and metal lining panels are made thicker (stronger) and profiled rooflights are now generally as strong as the metal sheets. The fixing and sealant specifications have been improved. Without any doubt , the roofs designed and fitted to-day are designed to be non-fragile for many years. The roofing sector is saving lives and the statistics for deaths caused on new build bears this out.

NARM has worked closely with the ACR and HSE since its inception. Chris Pearce, a key founder of and significant contributor to ACR, continues this work and today also plays an active role as NARM’s Safety Representative.

NARM member companies meet on a quarterly basis and the subjects of compliance and standards relating to non-fragility and roof safety are raised and discussed as a matter of course – as part of NARM’s ongoing committment to raising safety standards in our industry.

The NARM Technical Library contains a variety of documents covering non-fragility and roof safety. These are available free of charge from the NARM website at: www.narm.org.uk

Oct 2, 2018

As recently as the turn of the millenium, there was still a prevailing perception amongst architectural specifiers and other interested parties, that rooflights had a negative effect on the energy efficiency of buildings. This view was borne out of the fact that even the best insulating rooflights of the time generally offered lower thermal performance than surrounding roof areas.

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