Trips and falls, severe burns from hot tar, electrocution and injuries from falling materials are among the most common causes of injuries or deaths to roofers. Here are 10 tips to help avoid roofing safety hazards and incidents this season.
Roofing season nears and now’s the time to get the roofing insurance policy you need to cover operations and liability risks. Afterall, roofing contractors and companies are routinely exposed to hazardous working conditions.
While protecting your profession or business demands a comprehensive insurance policy, adhering to recommended risk management best practices can help limit your liability risks and keep your premium low. Moreover, your insurance company will want to know your safety measures for any job, whether a commercial, industrial or residential roofing project.
Falls are typically the leading cause of roofer fatalities and are often a result of missing guardrails, misused fall protection gear, ladders and scaffolding in poor condition, or a lack of training for roofers.
According to data from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, 924 workers died due to work-related causes in 2020. Construction-related fatalities rank among the highest by industry.
Here are 10 tips to help avoid roofing safety hazards and incidents this season:
Implement safety procedure guidelines
Before starting any job, huddle with your crew to discuss the working environment, encourage teamwork, identify possible dangers and ensure your team adheres to the mandatory safety procedures you establish to help prevent incidents and protect your business from legal harm.
For example, always sweep the roof before and after each working day to remove dirt and debris and know where the electrical hazards are. Plan ahead by providing them with safety guidelines to follow and enforce the rules.
Wear personal protective equipment
Among your safety guidelines should be a requirement for all roofing contractors to wear protective equipment, including hard hats or helmets, fall protection harnesses, safety ropes and ties, steel toe footwear with traction that grips to surfaces, eye protection and safety gloves.
Dress appropriately for the job
Roofers should wear comfortable clothing that is neither loose nor restrictive so they have the flexibility and mobility to move freely. Long sleeves and pants are recommended regardless of the time of year, but sport breathable fabrics in the summer months, layers on cool days and durable clothing with pockets and utility loops. Your crew’s clothing is like a first line of defence against sunstroke, heatstroke, frostbite, other inclement weather, bee stings and trips and falls.
Avoid distractions while working
Who doesn’t have a mobile phone nowadays? Insist your crew mutes or turns their phones off before starting work to avoid them from being distracted by buzzes and beeps. If possible, appoint one crew member on the ground to receive and relay messages to the workers toiling on rooftops. Extra tip: Avoid interacting with a mobile phone while driving to and from a jobsite. Distracted driving is as much of a threat to road safety as impaired driving is.
Establish walkway paths
Secure roof walkway paths are critical for protecting your crew and the roof’s integrity. Determine the placement of walkway paths required for each job to reduce the risk of injuries and incidents since surfaces may be hot, icy and slippery, uneven or sticky. Plus, navigating ducts, pipes and mechanical equipment on rooftops can be hazardous for your team and a commercial building’s maintenance workers.
Use high-quality ladders
Don’t scrimp on using high-quality ladders, tools and other materials. Ensure there are an adequate number of ladders available for your team, inspect them regularly to make sure they’re in good condition and always secure them or tie them off to ensure they’re stable.
Also, when working on steep-sloped roofs like those common to residential buildings, set up netting, guardrails and scaffolding to enhance safety. Likewise, be aware that slate and tile roofs are significant slip hazards. Generally, using guardrails for every job provides workers with a physical and visual barrier to prevent them from falling.
Ensure your team is trained to handle power tools
From high-powered drills to hot torches, roofers must be trained to handle the tools they need to do their work. Always check every tool in your toolbox to ensure they’re in good condition and are not defective. When in doubt, toss it out or get it repaired before using it.
Be cautious when handling hot bitumen
Hot-tar roofers’ risk of a severe burn injury is sky-high on every job. Your team must have the knowledge and training to handle buckets full of hot bitumen, where to place them and the safe filling level. Also, have an adequate number of fire extinguishers on hand, keep the vat of scalding hot bitumen sealed at all times, and ensure flammable or combustible items are nowhere near sources of heat and hot bitumen. Having one crew member as the “fire-watch person” for all hot tar or torch-down jobs is essential.
Don’t fill buckets of hot tar more than 100 millimetres from the top, don’t carry hot bitumen on a roof that’s frosty, icy, or wet from morning dew, and don’t place buckets or mop buggies within two metres from the edge of a roof. In addition, when using a hoist line, it’s vital to ensure buckets are properly secured to it and avoid sending down more than one bucket at a time for refilling.
Know the weather conditions
From extreme heat or cold to thunderstorms, rain, windstorms and snowfall, always know what the weather conditions are expected to be where your crew is working. Extreme weather heightens the risk of slips and falls and affects how well roof shingles are sealed. Err on the side of caution and postpone starting work if the weather isn’t ideal.
Secure your worksite
At the end of every workday, clean the worksite, remove clutter and debris and ensure all your company’s tools and equipment, materials and access to the roof and jobsite are locked up. Theft and vandalism are constant threats on any construction site.
Having a thoughtful safety plan and sticking with best practices to prevent incidents and protect your team is crucial for reducing the likelihood of filing an insurance claim, avoiding lawsuits and maintaining your business’s upstanding reputation.
Aharshan Thangarasa is a licensed broker and team lead, contractors at Zensurance, Canada’s leading source for small business insurance. Get a free quote for your insurance needs by visiting Zensurance.com/DCN.