Learn about the importance of roof safety, how to identify and eliminate the common rooftop safety hazards, and the top 10 safety precautions for the safe work of roofers.
What is Roof Safety?
Roof safety is a system of preventive measures when performing work and repairs on rooftops because it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites that falls from roofs account for 34% of all fall deaths.
To protect roofers from serious injury and death it is important to identify hazards when working on rooftops and to follow critical safety steps to control these hazards. Below are the most common rooftop hazards that should be identified and controlled to keep roofers safe:
Always watch out for fall hazards when working at heights. Basic questions to ask yourself and your team should be: Is the structure strong enough to support the weight? Are there holes to watch out for? Are guardrails available for workers? Are ladders properly placed and not defective? Use an inspection checklist to ask the right questions and assess fall hazards when working from heights.
Power tools are essential when working on rooftops. However, if improperly used at heights, power tools can inflict serious damage to workers as well as cause slips and falls. Ensure your team is properly trained to handle power tools and that they are not defective.
The construction industry is most at risk from electrical hazards, accounting for 52% of all electrical fatalities in the US workplace. Workers most at risk of electrical hazards include those working on rooftops and near power lines. Improper handling of electrical equipment can cause massive electrical shock, burns, fires and death. Conduct regular electrical safety checks to identify and control possible causes of electrocution to prevent accidents.
Common hazardous substances when working on rooftops include exposure to asbestos, paint fumes and harmful chemicals. Check for substances that may harm workers on-site and take appropriate action including proper storage and safe handling of hazardous substances.
Whether it’s the heat of torches used for roofing or extremes in weather, workers must be protected from the dangers of extreme temperature by identifying the risks brought by equipment or current weather conditions. Have your team perform a toolbox talk before your shift to decide whether you should commence work for the day.
It is imperative that rooftop hazards be identified to minimize the risk of accidents. You can use iAuditor’s free digital checklists to conduct your hazard identification assessments and take immediate action before accidents happen.
Employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards. Depending on the associated hazards, some of the PPE that may be required for working on a roof can include, but not limited to:
- non-slip footwear
- hard hat
- eye protection like safety glasses and visors
- hearing protection like ear plugs and muffs
- fall protection like safety harnesses and lanyards
- respiratory protection
- wet weather gear
According to OSHA, safety signs are generally categorized in three types—danger signs, warning signs, and caution signs. When working on rooftops, roofers will usually encounter the following examples of roof safety signs and what they should do:
When there is a roof safety danger sign, there are immediate hazardous conditions that will lead to serious injury and death if not avoided. Upon seeing this sign before any roofing work, avoid it at all costs.
When there is a roof safety warning sign, there are existing life-threatening hazards that can lead to serious injury or death. Accessing roofs by permit means that only authorized personnel or trained employees can be on it. Warning signs represent a hazard level between danger and caution, needing specific precautionary measures to be taken.
When there is a roof safety caution sign, there are minor hazard situations where a non-immediate or potential hazard or unsafe practice presents a lesser threat of employee injury. Roofers should be mindful of caution signs and apply necessary control measures in any roofing work.
- Always begin with your Pre-Start Talk
Make sure you always conduct a 5-10 minute pre-start talk with all workers before commencing work on a rooftop. Discuss common hazards present (like the common hazards above), assess the condition of the work area, confirm that proper permits have been secured, and encourage the team to verbalize the safety tips to follow. Using a pre-start toolbox talk template can help your team communicate and record their daily safety conversations.
- Work only during good weather conditions and avoid extreme heat/cold
Not only does extreme weather cause slips and falls, it can also hinder proper execution of roofing work (roof shingles not sealing down). A wet roof is also a huge risk for slips and falls. Better side with caution and always wait for ideal weather before you begin roofing work.
- Ladders should be stable and properly secured or tied off
Always make sure that there are enough ladders for the job and that they’re all safe to use. Check your ladders for safety as some of them may need repair or replacement to prevent fatal accidents or injuries.
- Wear proper PPE
Wearing proper PPE such as helmets, shoes with traction, and fall protection harnesses can help save you when slips and falls occur. Perform regular PPE checks to ensure your team is properly equipped.
- Carefully position ropes and extension cords so they’re not underfoot
When not properly handled, ropes and cords not only hinder workers’ movements, they can also cause fatal accidents. Always follow proper use of ropes, cords, and safety harnesses.
- Sweep the roof before and after work and make sure it is clear of dirt and debris
One random nail can cause slips while snow or leaves can hide areas of the roof that should be visible to workers. Always keep the roof clean and free of items that can cause accidents or materials that can hinder visibility of the roof.
- Use guardrails whenever possible
Guardrails serve as a visual and physical barrier which protect workers from falls. It reduces the risk of injury and death from working on roofs.
- Skylights should be guarded appropriately
Skylights and other openings on roofs should be properly covered and labeled with visible warning signs to prevent workers from leaning on or falling into them.
- Be careful of slate and tile roofs
Slate and tile roofing is a major slip hazard. Always make sure that workers are properly trained and have enough experience to work on slate and tile roofs.
- Signage should be visible in your work area
People around the work area should always be made aware of roofing work in the vicinity by using visible warning signs to prevent injury or accidents with staff working on site or from falling debris.
You should now be familiar with the common rooftop safety hazards and basic steps to follow to improve safety in your workplace. Explore how using a digital inspection app like iAuditor by SafetyCulture can help you keep improving rooftop safety in your workplace.
Roof Inspection Checklists
Always begin roof work with a toolbox talk to mitigate possible roofing risks. Discuss and inspect possible hazards associated with work at the site and resolved safety issues.