Roofing (Heat) Hazards

Roofing work using tar, torches, or welding exposes workers to heat, burns, and overexertion that can lead to serious injuries and heat illness.

During work, wear light-colored, flame-resistant clothing with long sleeves and cuffless long pants to protect you from heat and burns. Collars and cowls protect your face, neck and ears. Wear a hard hat, safety boots with a non-slip sole and heel, and leather or heat-resistant gloves. Don’t tuck your pants into your boots. Face shields, side-shielded safety glasses, or goggles protect your eyes. A respirator protects your lungs from fume exposures.

Check the weather before you work. Work in high temperatures and humidity can lead to heat illness. At the job site, try to work in a cooling breeze and keep fumes away from workers. Do the heaviest work in shaded areas and the coolest part of the day. Stay hydrated by drinking frequent, small amounts of water. Remove your protective equipment when you take breaks.

To prevent fires, clear flammable material, gases and/or liquids off the roof. Mark and protect permanent building fixtures, gas, and electrical lines. Seal off air intakes and roof openings to keep fumes and flame out of the building. Have fire extinguishers available. Make an emergency plan. Know the roof escape routes. Set up communication between the roof crew, building, and ground workers. Know the local emergency numbers for fire and medical services. Know first aid for heat illness and severe burns.

For hot tar roofing, wear a face shield when you add tar chunks or kegs to the tanker truck or kettle. Pumping the hot tar to a hot lugger tank on the roof and then to a mop cart is safest. Hot tar from hand-carried buckets can splash and burn you. Don’t carry hot tar buckets up a ladder; use a hoist line. When you carry a hot tar bucket, walk cautiously to avoid slips and falls. Keep buckets and carts covered until you use or dump the materials.

Hand-held or walk-behind roof torches can exceed 2000°F. Don’t torch directly onto building materials, flashing, or voids in the roof. Be careful on heavy slopes; walk-behinds can roll away or tip over. Don’t pull a walk-behind backward on roofs that exceed a 4:12 slope. When you set the torch down, always turn it off and set it upright on its legs. Don’t hang a torch over the roof edge. To turn the torch off, turn off the propane fuel tank first, then allow the gas in the line to burn off. Stop work 2-3 hours before you leave the job to prevent hot spots or smoldering fires.

Welding machines to apply plastic roof membranes reach 1100°F and use up to 220 volts of electricity. To prevent electric shock, use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and avoid rain or wet areas. Don’t touch grounded objects such as pipes or scaffolding while operating the equipment. Don’t overheat plastic membranes, they can emit toxic compounds.

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