What Safety Equipment Is Needed to Stay Safe on a Steep Roof?

July 21, 2020

Why Safety Equipment Is Necessary

Falling from a steep roof can lead to severe injury or even death. In 2016 there were 364 deaths related to roofing falls, averaging nearly one death each day. Understanding the safety measures and regulations that go with working on rooftops and in other roofing projects where there is potential for a fall will help you learn to protect yourself and keep others safe. According to a CBS report, doing roof work is among the top 20 most hazardous jobs in the United States.

Steep Roof Safety Equipment

It’s possible to work safely on rooftops, but using safety equipment is of particular concern when it comes to doing work, such as re-shingling, on a steeply inclined roof. First, you need to consider the clothes that you wear while working on a roof. You want loose-fitting and comfortable clothes so your body is free to move and there are no restrictions. The best shoes are rubber-soled shoes so you can have proper traction. If there’s inclement weather, select another day to do the work. Wind and rain can not only influence your well-being, but rain can make an already dangerous job more precarious.

Let’s take a closer look at what sort of safety equipment you need to stay safe on a steep roof.

Proper Shoes

As mentioned, rubber-soled shoes are the best. They’re able to “grab” the surfaces where they’re used, providing safer traction for workers on rooftops. You’ll also want something with ankle support so you don’t inadvertently twist your ankle or knee from an unexpected or unanticipated movement.


One of the first things you need in your equipment reserves is a very sturdy and extendable ladder. Before using a ladder, always inspect it for damage. The sides and rungs should not be dented or bent and all moveable parts functioning. The ladder should be able to extend at least three feet beyond the eaves so climbing up and getting onto the roof is as safe as possible. Make sure the base of the ladder is secured and then also secure the ladder at the top to the eaves so it isn’t movable. It’s important to hold on to the ladder with both hands as you get off it.

For large roofing jobs, you may need a few ladders and some scaffolding around the job. Having ladders to get from one row to the other can be helpful. The ladders don’t have to be especially elaborate, but they have to be secure enough to move from place to place. If, for example, you’re working on a roof that is just a couple feet wider than your potential reach, one scaffolding row and a single ladder may be all you need.

Roof Jacks

Sometimes called “roof brackets,” you can find these at hardware stores. They can be used along with 2-by-8 boards to construct roof deck scaffolding. They’re able to provide support so long as they’re used with at least 2.5- to 3-inch nails. The bottom part of each bracket, or jack, is supposed to fit underneath the top layer of shingles, and as long as the nails you use don’t miss the rafters, there should be no additional or lingering concern about roof leakage during the short amount of time they’re installed. The boards are designed to fit—flush—inside the brackets, and the said nail or screw is there to prevent them from moving. Once removed, the roof will need to be repaired.


There are some roof types that are so high and steep that working from scaffolding can still be dangerous so you need to take additional safety measures. Professional roofers always opt for a harness—even on less-steep roofs—as it’s a good way to secure themselves to the site, and it provides the extra security an individual needs when working from a roof. Normally, a harness set includes the actual harness, a rope, a lanyard for adjusting the rope tension, and a roof anchor to secure yourself. Attaching your anchor to the peak of the roof is one of the more important parts of verifying your security and safety.

After you drive the lag bolts down into the rafters, you can link yourself (as you’re wearing the harness) and be able to keep connected, physically, to the top of the house. With this piece of steep roof safety equipment, you’re able to walk four feet away from it in various directions. If you need to move along the roof more than four feet, you need to drive another lag bolt in to secure yourself.

Guardrails, Nets, and More

For starters, the government requires companies to protect (and secure) their workers from potential falls when working at heights. There are specific protection equipment and safety systems in place to guarantee worker safety.

Generally speaking, there should be components of personal fall arrest (PFA) systems safeguarding the workers, in addition to nets and a guardrail. They can be set up around the perimeter of the roof site on steep-slope and low-slope sites.

Umbrella Rules

Anyone who’s working from a height of more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) must use one (or more) of these protections. It’s incumbent upon the worker and business to make sure all the security fittings are in good, working condition, free of wear and tear that might undermine their intended usage.

Remember the Basics

  • Make sure your harness is properly fitted and snug enough to keep you from slipping out.
  • Utilize the safety inputs, such as guardrails and lifelines, on your roofing job.
  • Keep an eye on your worksite. Make sure there isn’t anything impeding the space of the worksite that could jeopardize your safety.
  • Identify skylights or other rooftop hazards and cordon them off.
  • Be dressed for the task. Clothes need to allow freedom of movement and shoes need to have proper traction.

Interstate Roofing has been a local favorite for decades. Come find out why by connecting with us for your next roofing project.