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

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.

What Is a Toe Board & How Else Do Roofers Stay Safe?

Safety is key in any construction job and few workers in the residential housing business understand this better than roofers. Since they’re working high atop a part of the home not really designed for people to stand on, they must find creative ways to protect themselves from injury without damaging the home.

One of the ways this is done is through the use of a toe board, a simple but effective method to ensure a roofer’s safety. There are a number of other methods roofers can use to stay safe as well. These will vary depending on the type of roof and the materials and tools that the roofer will be using.

Here are some of the precautions we take to ensure our team remains safe no matter how small or large the roof we are working to repair or replace:

Toe Board

If your home has a standard gable roof shape—the inverted “V” that most people picture when they imagine a house—then it’s designed to allow rain to roll off and protect you from the elements.

It’s not, however, designed to be stood upon.

When working, however, roofers must have the freedom to move around on your roof, whether it’s to nail on shingles, repair damage, or perform diagnostic work. One of the ways we move around on this type of roof without fear of falling is through use of a toe board.

The roofer simply nails a long wooden board—usually a standard 2×4—and uses it to create a walkway. The toe board method is commonly used by most roofing contractors for safety and staging purposes.

Although toe boards involve driving nails into the roof of your home, they will not do any damage unless they are not properly removed. When researching a roofing company, ensure that if they use a toe board, they have an appropriate removal technique so that you are not surprised by leaks down the road.

Roof Brackets

Similar to a toe board, roof brackets allow the roofer to create a scaffold of whatever size is needed on the roof. Also known as “roof jacks”, roof brackets are metal devices across which wooden boards are placed to create safe areas for workers to stand.

Like a toe board, its use involves driving nails or screws into the roof itself, and so it’s important that it’s properly installed so that it does not become loose. It’s also necessary to remove it correctly to prevent any damage to the roof.

Safety Harnesses

The safety harness is another tool in the roofer’s arsenal designed to prevent injuries. As you might expect, slips and falls are the most common cause of injuries and deaths during roofing. Usually, these happen to amateurs attempting a DIY project or contractors who do not furnish the proper safety equipment for their employees.

Especially on very steep roofs, a toe board may not be enough to keep the roofer safe. With a harness that is clipped into a sturdy fixed point, roofers will have an added level of security should they lose their footing. In many states, safety harnesses are required by law if the roof is more than 10 feet high.

Roofing Ladders

Ladders are another essential tool for roofing jobs, but it’s critical that your roofer arrives at the job site with the right one. If a ladder is too short, it will be at risk of slipping off when it’s leaned against the roof.

The ladder should also be fastened to the roof; this will add a layer of security to prevent it from toppling over. Roofing ladders are designed specifically for working on your roof. They are essentially the same as any other extension ladder, but they can be securely attached to the slope of your roof to allow roofers to climb up and down with ease. A roofing ladder should never be attached at an angle of more than 75 degrees.

Proper Training

Of course, safety is much more than just equipment. When you’re researching a roofing company and asking about its safety policies you’ll want to ensure their employees are properly trained to handle any roof environment.

They’ll need to be constantly working to familiarize themselves with every tool they might use on the job; they should also have regular safety meetings and inspections.

It’s important that every employee receives safety training as soon as they are hired and that everyone is trained to handle any number of injuries or emergencies that could occur. CPR and First Aid training are a must, as is a process to investigate any accidents or incidents.

You’ll want to research the experience level of your roofing company as well. Ideally, you’ll find a roofing company, like Interstate Roofing, that has been in the business for years and employs only roofers who confidently know what they’re doing.

Working on Your Roof

A structurally sound roof might just be the most important part of your home. It protects you from the rain, as well as sleet, hail, and snow. During the summer it keeps you protected from the sweltering heat. If your roof begins to show signs of damage or decay, it must be fixed immediately. If not, water can leak in and cause devastating damage to your home and belongings.

In worst case scenarios, roofs can even collapse and cause catastrophic damage to the home and threaten the safety of the people inside it. That’s why it is absolutely critical to keep your roof in good shape; you can’t cut corners when your family, home, and property are at stake. You will need to invest in the services of a good roofing company like Interstate Roofing.

A reputable business won’t just do an amazing job fixing up your roof, it’ll also commit to the safety of its workers. Before you sign a contract with any company, you should research whether they make use of a toe board and what other safety practices they employ.