5 Safety Guidelines for Anyone Accessing your Roof

When it comes to rooftop safety, roofers are held to the most stringent guidelines. But, there are also some important rules to follow for vendors and employees who are on the roof.

  1. Working vs. not working. A common misstep to fall protection regulations is the mindset that the rules don’t apply when you’re just cleaning up debris, doing a self-inspection, etc. And then you detect something small that you can easily fix while you’re up there. It’s at that point when the safety regulations kick in. So before beginning the task at hand, step back and consider what it entails – if you need tools to complete the task,  you’re “working” and need to follow proper safety guidelines. If you only have a clipboard and measuring tape in hand, you’re “not working.”
  2. Will it support your weight? At any point when you’re on a roof you need to consider whether the surface you’re standing on can support not only your weight, but the weight of the tools and material you have with you. Experienced roofers check inside first, looking for clues that the deck may be compromised by such factors as water damage or rust. They also closely examine the integrity of the surface they’re going to be working on.
  3. Sunlight on flat commercial roofSkylight awareness. Around 30 percent of roofing-related fatalities occur when someone falls through a skylight. They’re not designed to support a person’s weight and should never be stood on. Identify these areas before beginning work by looking from the inside out. Also make sure to barricade them when work is being performed,  because skylight incidents often happen when someone is backing up and doesn’t see one behind them. Also, older roofs are often re-coated, and skylights that are flush with the roof surface may have been coated along with the surface. This makes them undetectable to those walking on them, which is another reason to always check inside first.
  4. Avoid slips and falls. One of the most common types of workplace injuries – slips and falls – can be exponentially more severe when it happens on a roof because of the height involved. Ladders must be properly affixed and ladder safety needs to be followed with no exceptions. 
    • Three-point contact is to be maintained at all times by moving deliberately slowly when conditions are wet. 
    • Don’t be tempted to carry tools or material up a ladder in your hands, use a tool belt or backpack. Better yet, “rope” it up after you are protected by a fall arrest system. 
    • Anyone working on a pitched roof or within 10 feet of the perimeter (check your state’s regulations as some are more stringent) must be properly tied off with the appropriate equipment or otherwise protected as described in the extensive Fall Prevention Standard, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M. Contact your area Federal or State Plan OSHA office for more information on the standard.
  5. Climate concerns. Roofing materials hold heat, making it much hotter on the roof than the outside temperature on a warm day. Anyone on the roof needs to stay hydrated, take breaks and dress appropriately. If working on a white roof, conditions can be blinding on a sunny day. Use UV protection eyewear so you can maintain good visibility at all times and always know where you’re stepping.

Anytime someone walks on your roof, they’re not only adding to its wear and tear, but they’re exposing themselves – and you – to safety risks and liabilities. Try to minimize foot traffic and establish a clear, defined path for people accessing the roof, especially those who are not experienced roofers.

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