A company contacted us because they needed safe roof stack access. The EPA required them to do regular tests on their stacks to comply with the Clean Air Act, but they had no permanent, safe means of access.
When we went out to the site for a preliminary review, accessing their stack was no easy feat. We needed to use a lower extension ladder to reach the lowest roof and bring up another extension ladder to use on the lower roof to access the middle roof.
To make matters worse, once we were on the middle roof, it wasn’t made with regular foot traffic in mind. We had to constantly be mindful of our step. Each metal roof panel groaned and flexed with each precarious step we took. Our goal was to keep the solution simple. It gets really easy to over-engineer a solution, but all that does is increase costs while not always providing a better product for the conditions.
What Were Our Options?
Our first thought was to have a fixed ladder extend from the lower roof to the middle roof, similar to their existing lower to upper caged ladder. We decided against that for a couple of reasons. The first was that there was no back wall to mount a walk-thru ladder. This would make us need to increase materials and engineering time, creating a custom solution which would just add costs to the project. Another option was for mounting a ladder on the same wall as their existing ladder and having it exit onto the side. We chose against this because the exit location was far from the stack needing access and that would have greatly increased the size of the catwalk needed, thus increasing costs.
An Economical Solution
We decided that the best solution was to utilize their existing ladder from the lower to upper roof. We then would fabricate a ladder to access the mid roof from the upper roof, as they would already have a need to be on the upper roof to inspect stacks there. The upper roof had a low parapet that the client didn’t want people stepping on. Our fixed ladder had a step-across platform incorporated into it so their workers could step onto that instead of the parapet, allowing for safer access to the ladder while protecting the parapet flashing.
We also fabricated a short catwalk and platform surrounding their stack. We designed the framing for the platform to mount onto their existing purlins with elongated supports as the platform extended to compensate for the roof slope. This allowed for a level, safe platform for their testing team to work from, eliminating the fear of slips in inclimate weather that can come from an iced up, sloped catwalk system.
A Quick, Permanent Roof Stack Access Solution – Under Budget
Ultimately, we relocated the access ladder from original plans which allowed us to utilize our mostly standard ladder design. The location change also allowed for a smaller platform which allowed us to complete the project under the customer’s budget. This project took 9 weeks from the date we got approval drawings in the customer’s hands to the completion of installation.