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If you’ve been in the roofing industry for as long as I have, you’ll understand why the importance of roofing safety cannot be stressed enough.
Despite the fact that we’re trained to observe proper safety precautions—so much so that it becomes second nature to us—we can still slip or fall from roofs, ladders and scaffolds. Even if we don’t count accidents involving the weather or the tools and materials we use on the job, we’re still at a higher risk of injuries and fatalities compared to most other workers in the construction industry.
This is why I never start a project without reminding myself and my crew to be mindful of:
The work area.
When you’re on the job, you have to make sure your designated work space is clean and organized. You’ll want to have everything you need in one place and within easy reach for convenience and efficiency. The work area must also be blocked off to protect pets, children, and other curious onlookers and keep them from getting in the way of the workers. Paths must also be kept clear of obstructions at all times.
As much as possible, avoid stacking tools or materials to prevent accidents should they topple over. If stacking is necessary, keep the stacks low and stable.
Roofing work can be dangerous enough even in fair weather, so unless it’s an emergency, you should avoid going up on a roof in adverse weather conditions. Rain, frost, snow and high winds are not only safety hazards but will also affect the quality of the results. This is why emergency repairs are usually just temporary: they’re meant to prevent further weather damage, not serve as a permanent fix.
Roofers’ safety gear include, but are not limited to: guardrails, netting, roof brackets, roof anchors, ladder stabilizers, lifelines, safety harnesses, lanyards, work gloves and eye protection. But more than just having these things on hand, you have to make sure that you know how to use them properly.
Depending on how big the roofing job is, you might have to deal with a lot of roofing materials. For starters, it’s always a good idea to plan zones dedicated to storage. It keeps things organized and minimizes the need to move bundles of materials around.
When lifting heavy materials, make sure you use your legs. Instead of bending at the waist, you should squat, pick up the load and stand. By doing, you can protect yourself from back injuries or strained muscles. Also, move only one bundle at a time, especially when climbing ladders.
Do not use conductive ladders. It’s possible for electricity to arc from a live wire to your ladder even without direct contact. Fiberglass and wood ladders are recommended if you have to work near wires.
Keep a close watch on metal materials like flashing and never touch wires directly with your hands or even with tools. It may also be a good idea to have someone from the power company inspect the wires before you start work.
These are just some of the precautions roofers have to keep in mind while we’re onsite. At the end of the day, while customer satisfaction is our ultimate goal, safety should still be our number one priority.
Greg Tittle is the owner of Tittle Brothers Construction, a Michigan home improvement and construction company which he founded in 2004 following a successful career in construction. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends and sharing his industry expertise through the company blog.