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by the NFCC


Unguarded edges

Hazard Knowledge

An unguarded edge is generally defined as a floor, gallery, balcony, roof or area that people can access, where there is no solid wall or raised rail and no intermediate guard rail to offer protection from falling.

Personnel at an incident may encounter unguarded edges around areas such as

  • Roofs, including access hatches
  • Cliff edges and embankments
  • Docks
  • Quarries
  • Loading bays
  • Openings around equipment
  • On-site machinery
  • Pits
  • Ramps
  • Modes of transport, such as flatbed trailers

Guards around edges may have been severely damaged in an incident, as in the case of a serious fire in a tall building, or they could have been removed to allow for works. The safety of personnel in these situations should be of paramount importance to incident commanders.

Personnel attending heritage buildings need to consider that while these building often have guards to prevent falls, these can be considerably lower than in modern buildings. Inadequate or poorly fitted guards can be present in any area or type of structure.

There can be occasions where personnel can be exposed to multiple hazards that have conflicting control measures and requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as an unguarded edge near a body of water. Control measures for each hazard would require the individual to wear equipment that may not be compatible; for example a lifejacket for bodies of water and a harness for personal fall protection.