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Best Practices for Roof Safety: A Guide for Roofing Contractors

Roofing contractors encounter hazards regularly due to the nature of their job. However, the way they prepare and handle them makes all the difference. 

We created this guide to help you learn more about the common dangers of this profession and equip you with essential roofing safety tips to help you avoid them.

For deeper insights into exterior construction, make sure to explore The CHE Companies’ blog section for more educational content!

Common Dangers Affecting Roofing Contractors

Before we get into the safety protocols for working on a roof, there’s something equally important we need to cover. That is, the threats roofing contractors usually face while on duty; identifying them is the first step toward preventing them.

Fall Risks

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry in the U.S., accounting for 35.3% of workplace fatalities. That’s a fact roofers should never overlook since most of their work is done at an elevated height.

Remember that falling accidents can happen for various reasons, and you should be prepared for all of them (we’ll show you how in a moment). Some include walking on a slick surface, tripping over objects, and using an unstable ladder.

Extreme Weather 

Getting up on the roof in bad weather is never a good idea. Strong winds and heavy rain will increase the likelihood of losing your balance and falling off the roof. Not to mention that when it’s raining, it’s challenging to focus and handle tools, and you might end up hurting yourself.

Extreme heat also poses its own set of risks. Working hard in sweltering weather can lead to serious medical conditions like heat stroke, in which you lose consciousness.

Fragile and Slippery Surfaces

Craftsmen are installing a slate roof home.Professional roof workers repairing roof

Many roofs are quite fragile and cannot support a person’s weight. If you don’t assess the roof to determine this, you risk damaging its structure and developing a serious injury. 

Besides, a few roofing materials have a super slippery surface and are notorious for causing many slip-and-fall accidents, so they require extra precautions. Slate and tile roofs come at the top of the list.

Toxic Substances

As a roofing contractor, you’ll be working with a variety of building materials that may contain toxic substances. Some workers are unaware of their presence and thus fail to take proper safety measures. This, unfortunately, can severely impact their health.

Asbestos, for example, is a fiber used in manufacturing some roofing materials, including shingles. When not handled properly, it can cause fatal diseases, such as lung cancer.

Electrical Hazards

One of the most important roof safety measures that are often skipped is identifying electrical hazards. 

For instance, working near power lines with less than 10m overhead increases the risk of receiving an electrical shock, which can result in massive fires and fatalities. 

How to Work Safely on a Roof: 5 Essential Tips

There are plenty of roofing safety practices you should be aware of. Yet, there are five in particular that you must learn by heart as they’ll help you keep the job’s hazards to a minimum. 

1. Check the Weather Forecast

Smart phone with weather forecast

Before starting any roofing project, check the weather forecast. Skip working on days when there’s a chance of heavy rain, snow, or heatwaves.

By now, you know that extreme weather will not only hinder the progress of your work but will also endanger your safety.

2. Inspect the Roof’s Condition

You must study the roof’s condition and general components before walking on it. Start by learning about the material it’s made of to know whether it’s from the slippery varieties we discussed. Most importantly, check if it falls under the fragile surfaces category.

Speaking of fragile, roof lights are one of the delicate components, so you must spot where they are and avoid them. Stepping on them will put you at risk of breaking them and falling through. 

In fact, roof lights and fiber-cement sheets—a brittle roofing material—are responsible for 22% of all fatal injuries in construction.

You should also scan the roof’s surface for any visible sagging or damaged parts, such as broken shingles. That way, you’ll be able to locate them while you’re up there and steer clear of stepping on them.

3. Prepare the Roof and its Surroundings

It’s critical to clear the roof of any decorative objects, debris, or similar. By doing so, you can complete the task more effectively and control tripping incidents. 

Then, make sure to have the fragile or damaged parts on the roof clearly marked so you don’t forget about them at any given point. You should also install a rooftop guardrail at the edges, as it helps a lot in minimizing fall hazards.

If you’re going to do extensive work, ask the client to stay inside and remove any valuable items, such as cars, from the surrounding area. This way, you can limit the damage if an object falls off the roof.

4. Use a Stable and Secured Ladder

Builders using ladder near facade and roof of building on urban street

Choose your ladder wisely, as it could be the difference between saving your life and losing it. Low-quality ladders tend to be unstable, so they suddenly move or tilt, causing you to fall. 

That’s why you must invest in a high-quality, reliable roof ladder, preferably one with safety clips. We prefer these clips as they lock the ladder in place. However, if your ladder lacks them, you can use a rope to securely tie it. 

5. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is your best bet for keeping all the common rooftop safety hazards at bay. The safety equipment included will protect you from body injuries, chemical and electrical exposure, and other workplace dangers.

The fall protection system, such as fall arrest and roof safety harness, is one of the vital components of PPE. Here are also some of the essential gear it contains:

  • Safety glasses
  • Hard Hats
  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Coveralls 
  • Respirators

Final Word

All the information we mentioned in this blog is meant to raise your awareness, not to instill fear. Yes, roof work can be dangerous, but understanding its risks and arming yourself with the necessary safety equipment significantly mitigates its inherent danger.

We always supply our employees with all the industry knowledge and high-quality gear they need to stay safe. Apply now to join The CHE Companies family and be driven by excellence! 

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