Worker safety is important on any construction job. Working on roofs is no exception. Falls account for more serious injuries and deaths in construction than anything else. Accidents occur not only to those building roofs, but also people maintaining, cleaning, demolishing and inspecting roofs. Any work on a roof is a risk. The nature of the precautions needed to work safe may vary from one job to another, but not providing safeguards is unacceptable.
There are several factors that contribute to avoidable accidents while working on roofs.
- Pitch of the roof – the steeper the pitch, the more difficult it is to maintain your footing.
- Moisture – rain, snow or frost may cause slippery conditions on the roof.
- Dirt or Sawdust – may cause slippery conditions on the roof.
- Footwear – the traction of shoes/boots varies, always wear good traction shoes/boots.
- Tripping hazards – tools, electric cords, etc. can create a tripping hazard.
Considerations for roof work
- Perform a risk assessment – identify the risks that will be encountered before performing the specific tasks required for the job.
- Getting on and off the roof – this is a major risk point, a secure way to enter and exit the roof is essential.
- Fall arrest system – a fall arrest system is required if a worker may fall from an elevated position. As a general rule, the fall arrest system should be used if the working height is greater than six feet. (Refer to the “Fall Protection” tailgate topic for further information.)
- Falling Material – maintain good housekeeping on the roof to stop material that could fall.
- Training – roof workers need the knowledge, skills and experience to work safely.
- Weather conditions – work should not occur during icy, rainy, or windy conditions. You can easily be blown off a roof when carrying roofing materials.
- Ladders and scaffolding – make sure they are structurally sound and installed properly. If you have questions, talk to your supervisor.
Fragile Roof - A fragile roof is one that does not safely support the weight of a person. Fragility of a roof does not depend on the composition of the roof material. A fragile roof may be caused by; thickness of the material, span between supports, or the age of the material. The fragility of a roof should be determined prior to work starting.
Slate and Tile Roofs - Slate and tiles do not provide a safe footing, especially when wet. Properly designed roof ladders or crawling boards need to be installed to work safely on these types of roofs.
Torch Applied Roofs - Torch applied roofing operations can be hazardous. Roofers may sustain serious burns from the torch or the asphalt being applied. In addition, temperatures generated during torching can start smoldering fires out of sight, only to burst into flame later. Take all appropriate fire precautions when performing this type of work.
Welding Thermoplastic Roof Membrane - The systems to conduct this type of work use electricity to heat the membranes, welding them together. Burns and electrocution are potential hazards with this type of equipment.
Safe Work Practices
- Keep your center of gravity low and over your feet.
- Keep your knees bent and be aware of things around you.
- Don’t carry too much or have your hands too full.
- Don’t drop things or let them roll off the roof.
- Go up and down ladders facing the ladder.