Are Your Roof Anchors Ready for Window Washing This Spring?

Window Washing Ottawa

“The windows are scheduled to be washed next week! But have the roof anchors been certified for use?”. We occasionally encounter Property Managers who require a roof anchor inspection that forms a part of their fall arrest system. Often, they are not aware of whether they need a visual inspection or load test or that the certification of fall arrest systems is required by law.

Understanding a building’s roof anchor maintenance and inspection requirements is not difficult, and with relatively little effort, Property Managers can automate this process in 3 easy steps.

  1. Know what type of anchors you have and what your requirements are.

The building’s initial design drawings or the roof anchor plan will identify the type, attachment, and purpose of the roof anchors and fall arrest system. Not all fall arrest systems are designed for swing stage use.

There are various types of anchors and components that may form part of your fall arrest systems, such as Davit arms and horizontal lifelines, however, for the most part, we see 2 types of anchor points:

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Figure 1. Wall Mounted AnchorsFigure 2. Pedestal Anchors

The Corporation’s anchor plan will identify whether you have adhesive, expansion, or mechanically fastened anchors. Typical examples of pedestal anchors are:

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Figure 3. Adhesive anchor (note bolts embedded in slab)Figure 4. Mechanically fastened anchor
(note bolts through slab and fastened on underside)

The Health and Safety Code for Suspended Equipment Operations stipulates that, at a minimum, all anchors must be inspected at intervals not exceeding 12 months. This annual, visual inspection requires the inspector to:

  1. Review the design drawings to ensure compliance with current regulations, standards, and engineering standards – Did the plan make sense?
  2. Assess the system to ensure compliance with the engineered drawings – Did they install the anchors according to the plan?
  3. Inspect all exposed, visible, and accessible components of the system for signs of distress – Are the anchors in good conditions?
  4. Inspect all adhesive and expansion fasteners – Were the anchors requiring occasional load testing included in this inspection?

Where mechanically fastened anchors are attached to the structure using welds or fastened bolts typically require only the annual visual inspection, the standard requires physical load testing of adhesive or expansion anchors at intervals not exceeding 5 years.

The idea behind this additional requirement for adhesive or expansion anchors are attached to the structure by adhesive (glue) or forces induced by expansion (friction, wedge pressure) and are more prone to non-visible methods of failure. Putting these anchors under a specified load and ensuring that the anchors are not permanently deformed confirms the integrity of the conceal attachment system.

Anchors are loaded to 50% of their design loads, to provide a suitable degree of stress without compromising the anchor by loading it to failure.

The 5-year load test will require more time on site for the inspection, wherein they will bring appropriate equipment to load the anchors and measure any deflections. A typical loading set up is shown below:

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Figure 5. Typical loading apparatus between pedestal anchors

  1. Know who can inspect and who can repair the anchors.

The standard mandates that either the visual inspection or the load tests be completed by a condominium professional engineer, or a qualified person under the supervision of a professional engineer. There are several general building engineers and roof anchor inspection companies that can provide this service.

Following visual or loading inspections, the report may determine that minor repairs, such as caulking or flashing failures, or major repairs, such as anchor replacement, may be required. Depending on the level of complexity of these repairs they may require a simple handyman or the involvement of a design engineer.

If a Property Manager is unsure from whom to obtain an inspection or load test, they can seek recommendation from their general building engineer, their window cleaners, or their roof anchor manufacturers.

  1. Schedule your inspections.

Although roof anchors must be certified for any work that will require attachment (caulking replacement from swing stage, pre-cast panel inspection from bosun’s chair, etc.), typically the inspection is scheduled to be completed before the first window cleaning of the season. Recalling that varying degrees of repairs may be required following the inspection, we recommend that Property Managers look to schedule their annual inspection during the month of March or April.

Many anchor inspectors and certifiers are now offering 3-5 year inspection programs, wherein the inspector is engaged to preform all inspections (annual visuals and load testing) with the requirement that they will be completed each year without explicit annual authorization. This approach reasonably shares the requirement of ensuring regular annual inspections with the contracted inspector and allows for cost savings as the inspector benefits from previous annual work they have performed.

Important things to remember:

  1. Building or anchor plans will indicate the types of anchors on the roof.
  2. All anchors must be visually inspected every year.
  3. Adhesive or expansion anchors need to be load tested every 5 years.
  4. Qualified inspectors under the supervision of a Professional Engineer may preform the inspections and load test.
  5. Annual scheduling or pre-contracting inspection services helps ensure that the fall arrest systems will always be compliant.

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