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5 Guidelines for Roof Work Safety

Roofing work isn’t a task for untrained individuals. The risks associated with this work can be grave, and those risks increase when you don’t have proper training. Even when professionals are completing these difficult duties, falls remain the leading cause of death, accounting for over 3,500 fatalities between 2003 and 2013. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that certain precautions are in place to ensure that roof work safety is a top priority.

Interstate Roofing has been in the industry for over 30 years, practicing safe roofing techniques to ensure that both staff and the property they’re working on are as safe as possible. Maintaining that safety takes education, patience, and concrete planning. Here are some of the guidelines that contribute to roof work safety.

1. Assess Potential Hazards

Before performing any kind of roofing work, a professional should assess the roof itself and the area around it for any potential hazards. No matter how much experience you have completing the roof work itself, outside hazards still have the potential of disrupting that work and creating unknown dangers. Things like weak spots on the roof, tree branches, rocks, and other large objects can all be considered hazards. Assessing the area where the work will be done properly beforehand gives the roof worker a better chance at performing their job safely.

It also gives them the opportunity to identify and remove those hazards if possible. They can decide if the hazards are significant enough to affect the work environment, document them in a work plan, and control them as necessary. Environmental hazards aren’t the only thing to be cautious of when performing this preliminary work. Other hazards, such as rusting and faulty equipment, should be assessed beforehand as well.

2. Create a Work Plan

After assessing potential hazards, a work plan should be created. This is another way to ensure roof work safety and avoid the possibility of injury. The information in a work plan will give workers more confidence and direction in the jobs they complete.

This can include tasks such as finding the safest access to the roof area, assessing the materials needed, and confirming that said material is on-site. A plan can also include establishing where any weak spots in the roof are, based on roof owners’ description of damage, and making all workers aware of them.

Because roof work is rarely a one-person job, each staff member’s position for the job should be established before the work begins. Figuring out who will be supervising the work, which steps need to be done, and who will be carrying them out can help to create a more concrete work plan.

3. Complete Fall Protection Training

It’s up to employers to ensure that their workers are prepared for the jobs they take on, and any job that requires workers to work six feet or more above ground level should also require fall protection training. During this training, workers learn information that will minimize their chances of falling. This can be done by using special techniques and equipment, and having the knowledge to know what to avoid. OSHA provides online courses for this subject, which can be beneficial to roof workers to help them become more educated on how to reduce their risk of falling on the job.

4. Check the Weather

There is no worse time to find out that a storm is coming than when you’re on top of the roof. For this reason, it’s important for roof workers to check out the weather before they plan to take action. Skipping this imperative step could lead to danger that might have easily been avoided.

Though big storms can be an issue, they’re not the only weather pattern roof workers should stay clear of. Mild rain conditions can also make the surfaces roofers work on less stable, giving them more opportunities to slip and fall. This is a situation that we are well aware of here at Interstate Roofing since we’re located in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

What may seem like stable conditions on the wet ground can become much less stable on a roof, which is why it can be such a dangerous task for people who aren’t trained properly. One slip could lead to a life-changing or life-ending injury. Dry conditions are the best weather for roof work to be completed, unless you have the proper equipment and materials to make wet conditions safer.

5. Know the Categories of Fall Protection

Since falling is the biggest concern for roof workers, being well-versed in fall protection techniques is important. Fall protection typically slots into one of four major categories: fall arrest, positioning, retrieval, and suspension. Having a basic understanding of these categories is an important aspect of being a professional roofer, and it’s one of the many ways to avoid unnecessary injuries. Here is some more information on those categories:

  • Fall arrest. A personal fall arrest system (PFAS) consists of an anchor point, a body harness, and a lifeline or lanyard. When used correctly, this system can prevent roof workers from free-falling more than six feet, giving them time to regain stability and avoid a life-threatening injury. It’s often used in conjunction with one of the other categories of fall protection.
  • Retrieval. The retrieval category refers to workers having a plan for if a fall occurs. Knowing what the plan is to address this problem beforehand can allow workers to save time in getting the necessary medical assistance to a fellow worker.

5 Roofing Facts to Remember in Winter

The winter brings harsh weather to most of the country. Along with that harsh weather, the cold season also often brings problems to your roofing. While the blistering cold isn’t the most ideal time for any activity, it’s especially difficult for providing essential maintenance to your roof. But sometimes problems arise that just can’t wait until spring to be fixed.

If you’re anticipating that your roof could be in trouble this winter, you’re going to want to know these five winter roofing facts. For over 30 years, Interstate Roofing has helped prevent problems with roofs in the Portland, Oregon, area, and we want to share what you can be doing to prepare your roof when the winter comes.

Fact #1: It’s important to prepare beforehand

If you want to make sure your roof is safe this winter, you’re going to want to get started on maintenance before the season even begins. As you might imagine, it’s more difficult for roofers to work in the winter months for more than a few reasons.

Not only is it more dangerous for them to work up there, but the work can also produce less than favorable results during that time. Roofers could be wasting shingles while installing or repairing asphalt roofs because they aren’t meant to be applied during that season. That means services often come at a higher cost too, and even when the job is completed in the winter, the shingles may not stick the way they’re supposed to.

You’ll want to conduct maintenance checks (or have a professional do it for you) to identify places on your roof that could be in trouble when the cold weather rolls around. This preventative maintenance could include tasks like cutting branches off trees near your roof and cleaning your gutters and roof flashing before the winter. When snow and ice get involved, these tasks become less safe and efficient to complete.

Fact #2: Don’t go on the roof in the winter

This could be the most important of all the roofing facts to understand. It might feel like you need to take action to care for your roof during these colder months, but your safety and the safety of the roof are more important. Maybe you’ve noticed that tree branches and debris are lying on top of the roof or that your gutters and flashing are covered with ice and leaves. But you should not complete debris removal in the winter; it’s simply unsafe.

Roofing companies may come out during the colder months for emergencies and other essential projects, but they know that there are more risks than rewards when it comes to getting up there. If you fear that a section of your roof is in trouble, you should step away from your home and walk around it from a distance, checking for any sagging. Don’t go up there on your own. Even if the weather is nice one day, you don’t know if there will still be ice.

Fact #3: Ice dams are one of your roof’s biggest enemies in the winter

After snowstorms, your roof could be at risk of creating an ice dam. An ice dam is a block of ice that often forms along the edge of your roof. When this happens, it doesn’t allow melting snow to drain from the roof. Refreezing rainwater can also cause ice dams.

When an ice dam occurs, parts of your roof could begin to leak or sag, especially if your attic isn’t properly insulated. In order to prevent ice dams, maintenance checks should be conducted during the warmer months, as well as on the warmer days of winter. So make sure you’re conscious of this particular issue.

Fact #4: If you’re forced to have a roof installed in the winter, make sure to hire a roofing contractor with experience (and good insurance)

If you’re faced with the decision to replace your roof during the colder months, make sure you hire someone you trust. Asphalt roofing tends to have a much higher chance of not being installed properly because of the weather and cold temperatures—and improper installation can lead to more issues down the road.

The adhesive strip on the back of asphalt shingles is activated by sunlight, and when the heat from that sunlight isn’t available, the asphalt doesn’t bond together strongly enough. So when it gets too windy, the asphalt shingles are more likely to fly off, exposing your roof and causing damage. If you’re making the decision to install a roof this winter, ask your roofer about how they will prevent these issues.

Fact #5: Professionals can do maintenance checks for you

Having proper maintenance done throughout the year is the best way to avoid having to go through repairs or installation in the winter. Aside from unforeseen damage, most problems can be addressed before the winter comes, especially when you have a professional inspect your roof. A roofing contractor will be able to spot damage and leaks before they turn into bigger problems during the wrong months.

Preventative maintenance can keep your roof looking its best while also keeping up with the maintenance requirements of your manufacturers’ warranty. But most importantly, preventative maintenance in the warmer months prolongs the life of your roof—and that’s what we are all after.