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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.