Specifying Roof Access Hatches and Ladders: The Key Considerations

Specifying Roof Access Hatches and Ladders: The Key Considerations

23 Aug 2023

Bilco UK Ltd

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This informal CPD article, ‘Specifying Roof Access Hatches and Ladders: The Key Considerations, was provided by Marcus Parnham, Commercial Director at Bilco UK, leading manufacturers and suppliers of Roof Access Hatches, CE marked Natural Smoke Ventilators, Floor Doors, Fixed Vertical and Retractable Ladders.

When considering roof access for commercial and residential projects, safety is clearly paramount but this has to be thought about holistically, hand in hand with performance and efficiency. As with most elements of the construction process, there is no one single solution.

In this article, we will discuss how specifying the correct roof access hatch in conjunction with the correct ladder type will ensure the installation’s suitability and compliance for the entire lifecycle of the building, whilst ensuring the safety of contractors when using the equipment.

Consider Your Access Requirements

To ensure you are specifying the correct system, you must first identify the reason for needing access to the roof. Roof access hatches are required to provide permanent and secure access to the roof area for a diverse range of applications and building types, two of the most common are for maintenance or the installation and removal of equipment from the roof.

You will also need to consider what tools and equipment will need to be transferred through the access hatch, or whether it will just be the individual that is conducting the necessary work. Getting an understanding of these requirements is the first step towards the correct specification.

Consider The Right Products For Your Requirements

Once you have established your reason for requiring safe access to the roof, you will then be able to make an informed choice regarding which roof access hatch and corresponding ladder system is best suited to meet the needs of your project.

Ladders and Space

The first considerations when specifying a ladder to gain roof access is where the ladder will be mounted. Is the area spacious or is it awkward and cramped? The space will influence the ladder your requirement.

For a small roof access hatch that has internal dimensions of 915mm x 915mm, a fixed vertical ladder should be chosen. This type of ladder is also the most suitable option for projects where space is limited. In this instance, a retractable ladder would not be recommended, as the ladder angle would hinder easy access as an individual moved up the ladder and closer to the hatch.

Ladder to gain roof access

When specifying a retractable ladder, it is essential that you know the height of the space between the ceiling and the roof, more commonly known as the roof void. This is to ensure the ladder box liner will fit inside the space once retracted. Calculating the height of the floor to the underside of the roof access hatch should also be done at the initial stages to ensure the ladder isn’t too short or long. However, retractable ladders are ideal for use in areas including schools and hospitals where the roof hatch is larger, at around 1500 mm in size and the floor area must be kept clear at all times.

To ensure easy and safe access, a minimum head clearance of 120mm is required, whilst the maximum single climb should be no more than three metres, in accordance with BS4211-7.2. If a ladder is to be mounted externally to gain access to a roof, it must be fitted with a safety cage and guard rail to ensure safe and secure access.

Safety Hatches

If access to the roof is required on a regular basis for professionals that will have to transfer tools and equipment through the hatch, a Fixed Staircase Roof Access Hatch, also known as a Service Stair Roof Access Hatch, should be specified with a Companionway Ladder or a Fixed Staircase. The companionway ladder is a 75-degree angled, rigid ladder, which provides permanent access to a roof hatch of up to 2440mm.

It should here be noted that the roof hatch must be sufficient to maintain a head clearance of 2000mm, as detailed in Building Regulations Part K.

Regardless of the size of the roof access hatch, the system should be operated easily and safely with one hand, in accordance with the requirements outlined within the Manual Handling Regulations, enabling the individual to maintain three points of contact with the fixed ladder. During the installation process, the ladder must be positioned opposite the hinge to ensure safe and unobstructed access.

Do You Need to Go Bespoke?

There is always a solution, so if you aren’t seeing anything that corresponds with your needs in the first instance, consideration should be given to the wider options available for both the roof access hatch and corresponding ladder. For example, ladders that are available with vertical backboards that include steps and a handrail for enhanced safety and security should also be considered to meet relevant building regulations.

Increased access opening sizes or double leaf configurations should also be explored where access is required for larger items of equipment or tools. Motorised options also allow the individual to safely maintain contact with the ladder when entering or exiting the hatch.

Regardless of the project type, all installations should be subject to individual Risk Assessments. Comprehensive training should also be provided for all professionals, supported by Method Statements regarding safe and correct use of the access solutions installed.

We hope you found this article helpful. For more information from Bilco UK, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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Bilco UK Ltd

Bilco UK Ltd

For more information from Bilco UK Ltd, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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