Working on the Fifth Façade

Friday, July 22nd, 2016
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The Sydney Opera House exemplifies the concept of the fifth facade – the roof.

The building’s designer, Jørn Utzon, said in 1965 that “one could not design a building for such an exposed position without paying attention to the roof…in fact one must have a fifth facade which is just as important as the other facades…I have made a sculpture.”

The majority of buildings have flat roofs that are often not in view, but as new buildings climb in height, this is changing and so are ideas for the use of this space. Increasingly, we don’t often just see roofs as spaces for entertainment, but as key components in enabling a building to become more self sustaining over time through energy conservation, efficiency and power generation.

As roof transformation is happening, so is the requirement for regular maintenance programs to ensure the roof system will fulfill its anticipated service life, thereby creating new risk for those people conducting the maintenance.

More consideration in the design phase is needed for roof access, the separation of public areas from ‘working areas’ and the types of protection from falls that will be needed.

We advocate the ‘Safety with A Star’ programme, where we can simply apply what fall protection solution will work best with the task at hand and the actual working space. There are 5 Stars in the programme, with five stars being the safest solution.

5 star



Maximum permanent safety – Guardrails


  • Permanent and temporary use
  • Choice of straight, curved, or folding posts
  • Requires almost no user know-how







Practical safety – Continuous Lifelines


  • Access to the entire roof
  • Can be expanded with additional anchor points such as the RAP
  • Hook up once for maximum safety
  • Steel cable track marks the safe zone
  • Users can pass each other safely (LinkedPro)
  • Multiple “routes” possible (LinkedPro)





Practical and cost-effective safety – Lifelines and Anchor Points


  • Access to the entire roof
  • Lifeline length needs to be adjusted when changing working locations
  • Most cost-effective horizontal lifeline solution
  • Requires some user know-how
  • Can be expanded with additional anchor points
  • Can be expanded using LinkedPro (one or two extra lines)





Cost-effective safety



  • Suitable for roofs of eight metres wide and over
  • Requires more anchorage points than other systems, so more drilling in roof surface
  • Requires user know-how
  • Reduced safe zone







Minimum required safety


  • Limited application, takes into account the roof width and deflection
  • Sufficient fall protection knowledge required for use
  • When using XSImpact 360°, easy to include additional anchor points for the RAP
  • Can be used in other applications to up to 18.5 m




Falls cause approximately 14 per cent of all work-related fatalities. Most of these accidents could have been prevented by adequate fall protection. Proper considerations to the selection and design of a fall protection solution in the early stages will more than likely result in a more functional and safer work place.

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