When it comes to roof safety, we’re predominantly concerned about protection from falling. In the typical year, 150-200 workers are killed as a result of falls, many of which are from roofs. An additional 100,000 workers are injured each year from construction related falls1. Habitat affiliates have also experienced frequent and severe falls on the jobsite. Over the last 3 years, the program has paid out more than $4,000,000 in claims relating to falls on the jobsite. We will continually monitor and address falls on the jobsite.
Most falls aren’t necessarily due to lackadaisical or reckless work habits; these are men and women working to get their job done. Taking just a few extra minutes to ensure a safe work environment can really make a difference. Even the best safety equipment is no substitute for common sense and good judgment. Follow the recommendations below for safely working on a roof:
Best Practices for Roof Safety
- Avoid Slippery Roofs – Avoid any roof which may be covered in rain, snow or ice. This presents a major slip hazard. Wait until the surface is dry before accessing a roof to perform any work.
- Avoid Excessive Wind – Wind also posses a danger when working atop a roof. If winds are in excess of 20 miles per hour, rooftop work should be avoided that day.
- Wear Rubber Soled Shoes or Boots – Rubber-soled boots typically provide better traction than leather-soled boots. Whatever footwear you decide to wear, make sure they’re in good condition and the soles are clean (no caked-on mud).
- Keep the Roof Clean – Keep the roof clean and clear of debris or spare roofing materials that could cause someone to slip on or trip over.
- Install Temporary Wood Cleats for Toe Holds – Nail 2” x 4” wood cleats or adjustable roof jacks to the roof deck to provide temporary toe holds. Remove the cleats or roof jacks as the roofing is installed.
- Use a Tie-off on Steep Roofs – On steeply pitched roofs, be sure to wear a safety harness that is securely tied to a fall resistant device.
- Ladders – If your access point to the roof is an extension ladder, make sure the top of the ladder extends three feet beyond the roof line.
- Roof Brackets – If you have access to roof brackets, use them to build slide guards using 2×6’s. Roof brackets are well worth the investment (and are inexpensive to purchase). They are a great safety net if someone does slip or slide. Roof brackets also provide a place to hang a bucket to keep your tools in while up on the roof.
- Tool Safety on Roofs – Tools dropped from roofs are a major cause of workplace injuries. When you’re not using your power tools, secure them with short lengths of rope or Bungee cords. Keep hand tools and small supplies in a 5-gallon bucket hung on a roof bracket. If you do not use roof brackets, always check the ground below before dropping anything from the roof.
- Mark or Rope-off the Ground Below – Clearly mark off the ground beneath your overhead work area to let workers on the ground know you are working above. Always look and call out before tossing anything down.
Following these safety tips can help keep your volunteers and employees from needlessly suffering a serious injury. Take charge, and make sure your volunteers and employees understand, and practice, these roof safety tips.
If you have any questions about this information please call the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002.
1 OSHA Standards 2008
The Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program is administered by Lockton Risk Services, Inc. Lockton Risk Services is an affiliate of Lockton Companies, LLC, the largest privately held commercial insurance broker in the world with over 20 years experience in program administration and extensive underwriting expertise in the home-building sector.