There is nothing more important than practicing good safety while doing work on a roof. The topic must be taken seriously because it is not only your safety but the safety of your mates as well.
Your safety practices are even important to your neighbors and other strangers that may come by your house. So, don’t just skip over this page. In fact, it should be the first you read before doing anything on the roof.
Use Roofing Safety Equipment
Safety equipment protects you from the element of surprise. You may think that everything looks safe but you never know when any of the following could happen:
• Accidentally standing where you are not supposed to such as a purlin
• Focusing on a job and accidentally walk backwards over the edge
• Being under a falling spanner
There is roofing safety equipment to deal with all of these possible accident scenarios. A safety harness protects you if you fall through a ceiling or off some other structure. Edge protectors keep you from falling over the edge should your mind be elsewhere. And, a hard hat keeps your head from injury should something like a spanner come from above.
Before Getting on the Roof
Roofing safety is also covered by local regulations in your area. Roofing contractors are oftentimes familiar with these regulations however they vary between locales. So, we won’t go into them here. I will just cover basic safety principles when working on a roof.
This section outlines the considerations you need to make before even getting on a roof that is over 2.4 meters in height. That’s 8 feet. It can be quite a drop if you happen to fall by accident. Take the proactive measures so that you can work safely once up there. Here are the considerations you should make:
• Be aware of fumes that could be noxious such as those coming from vents or chimneys. Avoid these as much as possible by positioning yourself away from them.
• Follow roofing safety regulations for your particular area such as those specifying harnesses to use and protection around roof edges.
• Get the pitch or angle measurement for the roof. Apply additional safety measures for roofs with steep angles.
• Inspect the age of the roof. Old and fragile roofs are dangerous because they may not hold a person’s weight.
• Keep the area on the ground from the roof clear. This protects others from falling objects such as tools. The clear area should be about 3 meters away from the edge of the roof. Make warning signs for those who may be walking around the base.
• Know the roofing material that you will be using. Identify everything you will be taking up on the roof. Be aware of any material that may have become brittle with age such as cladding.
• Know where the main power feed into the building is as well as the location of all other electrical services on the rooftop.
• Know your ladder and how to put it to safe use.
• Make a flat, dry, and clean area at the base of access to the roof to clean off your shoes should the area be wet and muddy. Don’t climb on the roof with wet or muddy shoes.
• Make available and put to use earth leakage detectors, ELD, and RCD.
• Unless someone needs to be on the roof, that person should not be there. This is especially true if he does not have a grasp of basic roof safety.
Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Roofing Safety
What follows are the basic things you should and should not do when up on the roof. All of these require that you be clear-headed so that you can not only pay attention to your steps but look out for your mates as well.
• Avoid going on the roof in extreme weather conditions such as rain, frost, and high winds. The same applies if there dew on a roof that is steep.
• Don’t step on anything with muddy shoes to include ladders, scaffolding, and the roof.
• Don’t use a radio while working on the roof. It interferes with concentration on the task plus makes it difficult for others to warn you because you might not hear.
• If you feel exhaustion coming on and are starting to get confused, take a break. Know your physical limitations when working on a roof.
• In extreme weather conditions, know when to stop working if you are getting dehydrated or experiencing the first stages of heat injury. The same goes for the cold weather. Know when you might be developing frostbite.
• Keep electrical leads away from sharp edges. It is best to keep them in the clear where nothing can snag or obstruct them.
• Wear the correct footwear such as steel toe cap boots. Use non-skid soled runners if the roof is slippery. Never wear slippery soled shoes, thongs, or go up in your bare feet. Local regulations may specify the mandatory footwear for a work site.
• While working on the roof or before getting on it, no alcohol, drugs, or medication that causes impairment.
A Quick Review
This is a bit of repetition but it summarizes the most important points of roofing safety:
• Always stay alert and be aware of your surroundings
• Be aware that roofing safety items such as edge protection are to prevent accidents. They are not to be relied upon in lieu of proactive safety measures on your part.
• Check the work done by the previous guy for any loose pieces or missing bolts.
• Don’t get on steep or slippery roofs without implementing the proper measures to avoid slippage.
• Don’t leave debris around your work area. Keep it clean.
• If you are going to be in one place for awhile, tie off your ladder at the top and bottom.
• Take care with electrical leads.
• Wear the proper safety equipment to include shoes with soles of non-slippery rubber.