5 Safety Guidelines for Anyone Accessing Your Roof

1. Working vs. not working. A common sidestep to fall protection regulations is the mindset that you’re “not working” when doing a self-inspection, so the rules don’t apply. But what happens when you detect something that can easily be fixed right then and there? It’s human nature to dive in and do the work and fix it. It’s at that point when the regulations kick in. Before doing the work, step back and consider what the job entails, and what you need to do on that particular roof to protect yourself. A good test is if you have tools you’re “working.” If you only have a clipboard and measuring tape you’re “inspecting.”

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 with you. Experienced roofers check inside first, looking for clues that the deck may be compromised by such factors as water damage, rust and the integrity of the surfaces they’re working on.

3. Skylight 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, and barricade them to be safe 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, making them undetectable to those walking on them. This is another reason to always check inside first.

4. Avoid slips and falls. One of the most common types of workplace injuries – slips/falls – can be exponentially more severe when it happens on a roof because of the height involved. Ladders must be properly affixed; no exceptions. Three-point contact is to be maintained at all times with moving deliberately slow 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. All employees working on a pitched roof or within 10 feet of the perimeter (check your state’s regulations, 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. Stay hydrated, take breaks and dress appropriately. If working on a white roof, conditions can be blinding on a sunny day. Use UV protection eye wear, maintain good visibility at all times and always know where you’re stepping.

Anytime someone walks on your roof, know that they’re adding to its wear and tear. Additionally, they’re exposing themselves, and you, to safety risks and liabilities. Minimize foot traffic and establish a clear, defined path for people accessing the roof who are not experienced roofers.