June 10, 2020
Roof safety is a system of procedures to minimize risk when performing repairs or other work on a rooftop. These preventative measures are an essential part of roof work, as falls are a leading cause of death in the construction industry. Falls from roofs are particularly dangerous and account for over one-third of all work-related deaths from falls, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This article discusses common rooftop hazards and the methods for dealing with them.
Rooftop safety hazards fall into the following categories:
Fall hazards include roofs that aren’t strong enough to support your weight, roofs with holes, and improper use of ladders and guardrails. Power tools are often essential for performing roof repairs, but they also pose additional risks in this working environment. Electricity is also more dangerous for rooftop workers, largely due to the greater proximity to water and power lines. Hazardous substances on the roof include asbestos, paint fumes, and other toxic chemicals. Weather and welding torches account for many of the hazards caused by temperature extremes on a rooftop.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) that rooftop workers use generally includes hard hats, safety harnesses, and non-slip footwear. They may also need additional PPE, depending on additional hazards. These include eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, and wet weather gear.
OSHA classifies roof safety signs into three types, including danger signs, warning signs, and caution signs. Danger signs indicate an immediate hazard that will lead to death or serious injury if you don’t avoid it. A warning sign means the hazard is life-threatening and requires specific precautionary measures, so only authorized or trained personnel should be on a roof with these hazards. Caution signs are for minor hazards that don’t pose an immediate threat, although they may still require control measures.
Roof work should always begin with a talk that discusses the common hazards of that particular rooftop. You should only perform this work during dry weather when the temperature isn’t extremely hot or cold. Ensure that there are enough ladders for the job, and they’re properly secured. PPE is also a requirement for working on a roof, which includes regular checks. You need to position extension cords and ropes carefully to ensure they won’t get in the way.
Use guardrails as much as practical to serve as both a physical and visual barrier to hazards. Cover skylights and other roof openings, and label them with warning signs. Proper signage should always be visible to notify personnel of all hazards. Slate and tile roofs present a particular hazard that requires additional training and experience. Sweep dirt and other debris from the roof before and after each job.
OSHA divides the procedures for protecting roofing workers into the three steps of “Plan, Provide and Train.” Planning includes planning the procedure itself in addition to the planning needed for training and safety equipment. The “Provide” step refers to ensuring workers have the right equipment, including safety equipment. Training primarily includes the proper use of safety equipment and recognizing hazards.
The OSHA checklist for fall protection breaks checklist items into the categories of pre-job, job-in-progress, and post-job tasks. Pre-job tasks primarily involve assessing the hazards that the roof poses, especially its slope and height above the ground or lower level. Jobs-in-progress tasks mostly deal with the use of warning lines and the establishment of a safety monitor. They also include questions on personal fall arrest (PFA) systems and guardrails. Post-job steps include the inspection of PFA systems and the removal from service if necessary.
OSHA has cut the rate of work-related fatalities in half since 1970, and the rate of injuries and illnesses has also declined during this period. However, 6,000 workers in the United States still die in workplace accidents each year, and six million people suffer non-fatal injuries each year. Contact Vtech Skylights today to learn more about how you can improve roof safety for your buildings.