Playing It Safe

Ensuring a safe job site starts with hiring the right contractor, and extends to treating the safety of the project as a shared responsibility between the roofer and the building owner.

The view from above can be downright scary; not just because of the inherent safety risks of a commercial roofing job, but in terms of who can be held liable should something go wrong.

It is imperative for the highest safety priorities and procedures to be in place on the job site. Your contractor and their crew should be informed, up-to-date and compliant on the latest safety training initiatives, and know how to responsibly get on and off a roof. Insist on a safety-first work environment at your facility.

Injury risks from on high

A typical commercial roof is riddled with potential safety hazards, and it’s not just the height above the ground that’s concerning. As crew members are performing their jobs, they must carefully navigate dangers such as skylights, openings, weak spots or gaps in the roof, debris like wet leaves and tree branches, bird droppings or nests and parapet walls.

Slippery conditions can also play a factor. It can be troublesome to maintain solid footing or keep a ladder steady due to ice, snow or moisture on the roof. This is where an experienced contractor with a strong safety record can add peace of mindo a project.

As a facility manager or building owner, when you engage a roofing contractor, factors such as quality of work, project timeframe and cost will certainly come into play as to who you hire. But a track record of strong safety performance – as evidenced by documentation of safety training, as well as lost work day and recordable incident numbers – should not be overlooked. In fact, it should be given equal consideration when evaluating your options.

Don’t take chances as it relates to safety. Incidents occurring on the jobsite that result in injuries – or worse – will not only delay the completion of the project, but could also create negative publicity for the building owner and the businesses involved. Put simply, it behooves the building owner to take necessary steps to assure the job is completed safely.

How do you ensure the safest jobsite possible? Follow these guidelines as a starting point?

An alphabet soup of credentials. When selecting a commercial roofing contractor, ask for, and analyze, their Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and Experience Modification Rate (EMR). TRIR is an indicator that measures how many OSHA recordable incidents a contractor has per number of hours worked, and is used to evaluate a contractor’s safety performance. The lower the TRIR, the better the safety record. A TRIR of 4.4 is considered average in the roofing industry. EMR is a number that represents a business’s claim and loss history and safety record. Past reported claims, losses, injuries and the possibility of reoccurrences are used to determine the number. An EMR rating of 1.0 is the average. Contractors that meet OSHA’s record-keeping requirements must calculate, report and post these values on an annual basis.

Safety documentation review. A thorough review of a contractor’s documented safety policies and procedures should take place prior to hiring. During a preconstruction meeting, you can see how a contractor would set up safety on the job site. The contractor should access the roof and inspect it for various safety hazards such as bad decking and unprotected skylights, as well as hazards inside the building. This information should be relayed to not only the building owner/facility manager, but also to the crews who would be present on the roof.

Site-specific safety strategy. Before work begins on a commercial roof, a job safety analysis (JSA) should be conducted. Per OSHA, a JSA focuses on “job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur.” This method analyzes the relationship between a worker, task, tools and the work environment. The JSA should be completed by all employees and communicated throughout the timeframe of the project. As conditions change, it should be updated, and safety equipment should be set up according to changes. Having a well-developed site-specific safety plan is crucial.

PPE is for me. While performing work on your roof, crews should be wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE). This includes a minimum of fall protection, safety glasses, hard hats, steel toed boots and hearing protection, where applicable. Personal Fall Arrest Systems should be used when conducting work outside of a perimeter warning line or other unprotected areas, such as on the leading edge, unprotected skylights or bad decking, or while replacing decking. If workers are not wearing the proper gear, work should be stopped immediately to address the situation.

Tied off for safety. An individual should be tied off when:

  • Working near unprotected skylights or parapet walls that are less than 39 inches high
  • Replacing decking or when bad decking is present
  • Working near the leading edge of the roof
  • Roping up material
  • Working outside of perimeter warning lines.

OSHA also requires being tied off when there are openings, gaps or holes greater than two inches in diameter. Ladders should be set up correctly and tied off at the top to prevent swaying in windy conditions.

Building owners and facility managers should also have a specific plan implemented for protecting their employees and vendors during general purpose roof access. The same laws and regulations that apply as a contractor apply to employees and vendors depending on the type of work being done. Employees should be trained on safe roof access, identifying weak or bad decking, wearing and using fall protection when required, and developing a rescue plan prior to accessing the roof.

At Simon Roofing, safety is our number one core value. Our employees go through extensive safety training that begins when hired and continues on a recurring basis and ranges from general safety concerns to specific ones that may arise due to the nature of the jobsite or the work being performed.

Simon Roofing’s EMR of 0.74 (2017) is a true testament to the company’s commitment to safety and continuous improvement. In 2017, Simon Roofing also posted a 1.88 TRIR, which is significantly better than the industry average of 4.4.

Our commitment to safety is relentless, and nothing is more important to us than ensuring every employee who comes to work each day returns home to their family every night.