Being a roofing contractor is a dangerous job. It takes a toll on you physically and mentally and requires you to be out in the elements for an extended period.
And aside from the obvious danger of working up high on a roof, there are many other risks that roofers should be aware of that don’t include falling. While falling is the leading cause of injury, physical exertion, exposure to extreme weather, or other harsh conditions also plague the profession and threaten your livelihood.
It’s vital to your safety to minimize risks while on a job site. We’ll walk you through some of the more common hazards and what steps you can take to prevent yourself from harm.
The severity of the damage to your client’s roof could make your job more dangerous. Make sure you have a proper plan of action before getting started to protect yourself from slipping or falling. Before you or your roofing team tackle a project, ask yourself:
- How strong is the structure?
- Can the structure withstand the weight of the necessary workers and tools?
- Where is the structure most compromised?
- Are there any holes I should be aware of?
- What sort of protection is in place? Are there guardrails?
- Are there enough ladders? Where are they placed?
- Have ladders and tools been checked for any defects?
Additionally, take note of any areas of the roof that are close to electrical wires or if there are any water, mold, or leaf piles — all of which can make the roof a slippery surface.
Working Safely Up High
Even though you are a professional roofing contractor, it could be counterintuitive to do specific tasks from such a great height. If you can use longer tools or extensions to get the job done correctly, you should always do so to avoid or lower the risk of injury.
If you must work at extreme heights and falls aren’t guaranteed to be preventable, use safety harnesses, nets, and airbags placed close to where you’ll be working. These safety precautions may seem excessive, but they can help save you or your team a trip to the hospital.
Know What You’re Up Against
If you’re aware of the dangers, you’ll be much more careful when you’re at a work site. Various factors make roofing a hazardous job, and not all of them involve working on top of a roof.
Slipping, Falling, or Tripping
These are the most common dangers that roofing professionals need to protect themselves from. So all workers must have proper safety training and awareness when working on projects that are higher up.
Here are some ways to avoid a slip, fall, or trip:
- Wear proper footwear and clothing
- Be aware of your surroundings and possible slippery areas
- Ensure safety measures are implemented to break falls
- Cover and label any skylights or other roof openings
- Never work when sick, injured, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
When working at heights, one wrong move can have disastrous consequences.
Malfunctioning Safety or Power Equipment
You can have all of your safety equipment ready to go, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work correctly. Here are some ways to avoid malfunctions:
- Test all safety equipment before getting to a work site
- Ensure that all safety equipment follows OSHA standards
- Regularly test equipment offsite and replace any old or malfunctioning equipment
- Ensure you are adequately trained on handling any necessary power tools
Broken ladders, nets with tears, malfunctioning harnesses, or safety equipment that hasn’t been tested or is improperly placed can all create hazards in a roofing professional’s work environment.
Being on the ground doesn’t mean you’re free from risks during a roofing job. Here are some ways to avoid falling objects:
- Have designated areas to place power tools to lessen the chances of them being accidentally knocked off the roof
- Ensure all workers are wearing hard hats at all times
- If working on the ground, make sure you’re at a safe distance from the roof
Falling refuse, branches, tools, equipment, or other objects can all be severe working hazards to those working below an elevated project area.
Weather is never something you can prevent, but it is something you can prepare for. Still, drastic weather changes or unexpected shifts in planning can mean that work is being done in less-than-desirable weather conditions.
Here are some tips to avoid bad weather:
- Avoid working in dangerous weather at all costs — the project is not worth it
- Should the weather turn severe unexpectedly, halt work until it clears up
- Check your local forecasts before you get to the work site
These conditions include more than just rain or snow; they also include extreme temperatures that lead to heat exhaustion.
Anyone working near or around power lines should be aware of the risks that come with it, including electrical fires or severe electrical shocks. Some of this risk comes from using power tools that involve electricity, which is something to keep in mind.
Here are some ways to keep safe when working with electricity:
- Do a risk assessment and an electrical safety check before working on site
- Wear appropriate PPE when working around electrical hazards
- Do not use any tools that have damaged cables or wires
- Do not attempt to fix any electrical items that you are not trained or qualified to fix
In the U.S., 52% of all electrical fatalities happen in the construction industry, which includes roofing professionals.
Employee Training and Evaluation
A large part of safety is giving your team the proper tools to stay safe, including knowledge. Investing in safety training for your employees or yourself could save you or your coworkers from seriously hazardous situations.
Some training programs specifically cater to professionals who work at heights. As a roofer, this kind of training is crucial.
And because roofing is a physically taxing job, you must be in good physical health. Any pre-existing health conditions, illness, or injury should be evaluated and considered when calculating possible risks.
The Roofing Professional’s PPE Checklist
You won’t always need everything on this list for every project, but you should have access to this equipment as a professional roofer:
- Fall protection gear (harnesses, lanyards, or airbags)
- Non-slip footwear
- Hard hat
- Safety goggles or visors
- Respiratory protection
- Earplugs or earmuffs
- Roof safety signs
Knowledge is power, but it’s no substitute for a hard hat.
In Case of Emergency
Failing to have safety protocols in place can lead to various work injuries or fatalities. Ignoring the real dangers of a job in the roofing industry is a recipe for disaster, so you must take some of these tips to protect yourself. But even if you arm yourself with all of the necessary protection and knowledge, accidents still happen.
Develop an emergency action plan (EAP) so you know what needs to happen if a safety emergency occurs when you’re at a work site. It’s also ideal to have at least some training in first aid or have access to first aid supplies to help buy time while you wait for emergency assistance.
Apply these tips to avoid injury on every site you visit, and you’ll have a more secure work environment, allowing you to focus on getting the job done and finish your work safely.