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Your Comprehensive Guide to Roofing Safety

We know that keeping your employees safe is critical. Working on roofs is a dangerous job, but following all the proper regulations and having a safety plan in place can mean the difference between a productive workday and a life-threatening accident!

Here’s the good news: You can rest easy knowing that at IRC maintaining safety is our number one priority, too! 

That’s why we put together this guide to roofing safety. This is a comprehensive look at how to stay safe up on your roof, the importance of a safe working environment, and the different ways we recommend maintaining safety for you and your employees.

Why Roofing Safety Matters

Roof safety is crucial for many reasons, but primarily because we want to protect the lives of our employees and our customers. This isn’t an exaggeration; improper roof safety can lead to severe injuries, even death.

The thing is, roof safety isn’t up to one person. Everyone must work together and follow every safety precaution. We stress the importance of creating a culture of safety where management looks out for the safety of each employee and each employee looks out for the safety of their coworkers!

We must always be on the alert for the hazards that come with any roofing job, such as heat, ladders, roofing equipment, vents and ductwork, wiring (and other electrical hazards), and much more. 

Accidents and damage can cost a company greatly for repairs and potential lawsuits, but, more importantly, they could cost someone their life.

Creating a culture of safety at your business will save lives and, ultimately, your business!

Safety Can Impact Your Business

When it comes to safety, your physical safety and that of your employees is the top priority, but safety can also have other effects in the workplace. 

For employees, having the proper safety measures in place can result in a better work experience. Injuries on the job don’t just affect the one employee; they can also impact the morale of other employees. 

Following regulations and providing training conveys that employees are valued and better equips them to do their jobs and react effectively during emergencies. Plus, this can also lead to higher employee retention and to the benefit of not having to pay a lot of money for damaged equipment or lawsuits.

OSHA Compliance

Safety in any facility is not only common sense, but it’s also the law. Every organization is required to follow the standards devised by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure the safety of their employees. OSHA has established countless regulations for the safety of workplaces, and while it may seem tempting to cut corners, doing so can be disastrous and more expensive in the long run. 

Some OSHA safety measures include keeping your facility free of hazards and marking potential hazards, having emergency procedures in place, providing employees with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and giving your employees extensive safety training. Complying with OSHA’s regulations when working on roofs is the best way to ensure the safety of every employee and protect the future of your business.

Effects of an Unsafe Work Environment

Unsafe work environments create more than just the potential for a physical injury. When working on roofs, there are plenty of dangers to employee safety – both short term and long term injuries are possible. 

When roof safety is the topic, short-term injuries are what immediately come to mind, but poor working conditions can negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health in a major way for the full extent of their life.

What Makes an Unsafe Work Environment

An unsafe work environment occurs when an employee is endangered while attempting to perform his or her required daily duties because of the physical conditions of the workplace. Even the smallest unsafe actions could lead an employee to serious injury or death.

Many hazards in a work environment can be classified as ergonomic, chemical, or biological. 

Ergonomic hazards refer to the strain on your body from repetitive actions. This can be anything from sitting and typing every day to lifting heavy objects frequently. 

Chemical and biological hazards both refer to different materials found in the workplace, such as dangerous fumes, flammable materials, and bodily fluids.

What to Expect from an Unsafe Work Environment

Unsafe working conditions can have enormous effects both financially and emotionally. From a financial standpoint, damaged equipment and lawsuits can add up to high costs for your business. 

However, the financial cost of damaged equipment or lawsuits is nothing compared to the price of having victims of accidents. Pain and stress from injuries and accidents are what happen as a result of an unsafe work environment and they can greatly impact your employee’s life. In addition, deadly incidents have widespread ramifications on family, other employees, your business, and the community. This is what’s at stake!

According to OSHA, workplaces that implement an appropriate health and safety management system can reduce their injury and illness costs by 40 percent. This starts with the development of a plan to ensure your workplace is safe and adheres to OSHA rules and regulations regarding workplace safety.

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Ways to Ensure Roof Safety

There’s so much that goes into ensuring roof safety, but an important aspect of roof safety is a preemptive approach. If you’re merely reacting to issues after an injury takes place, you will never create a culture of safety. 

Having safety measures in place before you ever step onto a roof keeps everyone out of danger. Following OSHA guidelines, having safety and emergency plans in place, and properly training all employees is crucial to maintaining a safe working environment.

Preemptive Roof Safety

Before you (or an employee) ever get on your roof, there are certain things you should do or should have already done to ensure it is safe. Some of these can be done by you in an office, like studying your roof plans and some can be done by the person who installed and works on your roof.

It’s important that you have some idea of what the roof looks like before you get on it. This way you can know about, mark, and avoid potential hazards. You can’t always see the hazards when you’re standing on the roof, but your roof plan should show everything there is to see.

Guardrails are another important aspect of preemptive roof safety. Having guardrails installed on your roof will warn you of the edge and prevent you from falling off. They can also direct anyone on your roof to specific walkways. Having walkways, in general, is another way to prevent slips and falls. They guide traffic to non-slip surfaces away from the edge and keep people away from dangerous areas. In addition, they can help prevent damage to your roof! It’s a win/win!

Another way to ensure a safer roof experience is with a roof hatch. These are generally more expensive than using exterior ladders, but they are significantly safer. However, if a ladder needs to be used, we recommend having a fixed ladder, rather than setting up a new ladder each time you access the roof.

Safety harnesses are an important part of roof safety that we will talk about later, but one thing you can do ahead of time to prevent falls is to permanently install tie-off anchors. With tie-off anchors, workers can tie themselves to the roof so that, if a fall occurs, they are protected by their harness and the secured line.

Safety While on the Roof

Once you have proper preliminary safety measures in place, the next step would be for your employees to get on the roof – safely.

Proper footwear, like work boots with good grip, can be the difference between walking safely across a roof and slipping. Good work boots that fit, that also have good tread remaining, and are tied tightly are crucial to working safely. Wearing improper footwear is recognized by OSHA as a leading cause of slips, trips, and falls!

Tying yourself off when on a roof without guardrails or high walls is essential to preventing falls. Falls seem like a rare occurrence, but they are more likely — and more deadly — when you’re not taking precautions. 

Guardrails and harnesses allow you to go to the edge of a roof safely. Anyone not protected should always steer clear of the edge. Even when tied off, don’t go near the edge unnecessarily. If you must go near the edge, you should be tied off every time and you should finish your task and then go back to the middle of the roof.

Just like with any job, getting distracted can be a threat to your productivity. On the roof, however, getting distracted can also be a threat to your life. Focusing too much on your job, or something else entirely, can make you unaware of your surroundings. One safety measure you can take to prevent accidents from distractions is to work in pairs. Having a partner with you who is only focused on where the group is walking is a great way to stay focused on the task at hand without risking your safety.

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Protect Yourself & Your Team with PPE

Like we mentioned before, there is a whole host of dangers present when working on roofs. 

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself, however, is to use employer-provided proper Personal Protective Equipment. PPE can include (but is not limited to) masks, eyewear, proper clothing, respirators, and noise protection. For roof safety, specifically, we are going to discuss fall protection, eye protection, and respiratory protection.

Fall Protection

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths and account for disabling roughly 400,000 workers each year. When working on roofs, and anytime you have employees at a height greater than six feet in the construction industry, the proper protection is crucial for safety from falls.

Protect yourself and your employees by identifying work situations where falls are likely and follow every necessary safety measure. Develop, implement, and commit to a fall protection program, and provide training on the program for every employee.

One way to help prevent falls is to use fall protection equipment like ladders, scaffolding, aerial lifts, and more. It is essential, however, to not only use this equipment but to use it correctly.

Another important piece of fall protection PPE is a safety harness. It is not just a matter of having safety harnesses, available, however. You also need to ensure that your harnesses are in good condition. When used properly they have the potential to save a life in crisis, but if the safety harness has not been used, inspected, maintained, and stored properly then a life could be in danger.

For a more in-depth look at what your facility can do to protect employees from falls and falling objects, read this blog post on fall protection.

Eye Protection

Providing employees with proper eye protection is another example of PPE that can save someone from a debilitating injury. Every day more than 120 construction workers are disabled due to an eye injury, and in many of those cases, workers believed eye protection was not required for the situation.

The main cause of eye injury is flying particles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of accidents studied resulted from flying objects or sparks striking the eye. Contact with chemicals causes about one-fifth of the injuries reported, and other injuries were caused by objects swinging or falling from a fixed position or tool.

There are different kinds of eye protection, such as safety glasses, goggles, and face shields. All of these serve different purposes and protect your employees from different kinds of hazards. It is important to know the distinction and how to best protect your employees in your environment. To be effective, the eyewear must be of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered and properly fitted and maintained.

To learn more about the importance of eye protection and the types of eye protection and their uses, read this blog post.

Respiratory Protection

The quality of the air we breathe, both on and off the job, has major effects on our respiratory system. Every day millions of workers face health threats because of air contaminants in the workplace. Thousands of diseases and deaths are linked to this occupational hazard each year. This is why it is so important for employers to provide employees with respirators if these hazards cannot be avoided.

Respirators are pieces of PPE that can be used to clean the air of contaminates or supply clean air to an employee on the job. Anyone that is performing tasks where irritating dust, chemical fumes, and other airborne contaminants are present in harmful concentrations should use a respirator. 

There are different types of respirators, and each type can come in a variety of forms, each with its own cautions, limitations, and restrictions of use. Fit testing for a respirator can be performed in different ways but should ways be conducted by a safety professional before work begins.

For more information on the types of respirators and what hazards they can protect employees against, read this blog post on respiratory protection.

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Watch Your Surroundings

PPE is an easy and crucial way to protect yourself from potential hazards on a roof. PPE is only the first step, however. Being careful of your surroundings, having comprehensive safety training, and knowing how to properly use the equipment are also important steps to ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you.

Tool and Equipment Safety

We often consider other safety concerns, like fall and respiratory protection, to be of a higher priority, but that doesn’t mean that the little things aren’t important. Even small things can cause serious injury, or even death, in the workplace.

Blades and knives are tools that we might use every day. Cuts can happen way too easily, and under some circumstances, these blades can cut right to the bone. Nearly 40 percent of all injuries attributed to manual workshop tools in the US involve knives with retractable blades. To avoid blade injuries, the right techniques and PPE are necessary. The most important parts of knife safety are to always cut away from yourself and that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one.

Ladders are another piece of equipment that we too often think we know enough about to avoid injury. Ladder safety begins from the ground up. Proper ladder setup will help prevent slips and falls. With a ladder set up the correct way, the next step would be to use it correctly. You may think that ladder safety is simple, but injuries occur every day.

Pressure washers are the last piece of dangerous equipment we’re going to discuss in this section. Pressure washers can cause serious injuries if used incorrectly. The water moves with enough force to damage skin and eyes. Wearing the proper PPE and handling this equipment correctly is essential to maintaining a safe work environment.

For a more in-depth look at the safety measures necessary for tool and equipment safety, read this blog post.

Electrical Safety

Electrical safety is a factor in just about every industry, but it is something we pay careful attention to when working on roofs. We often work on roofs where power lines and electrical weather heads are in the area where we need to work. Taking proper precautions is essential because electricity can cause burns, shocks, and electrocution. Not only are these injuries painful, but they can very easily be deadly.

General safety is the first step, but there are a lot of aspects of electrical safety. Wiring, power sources, circuits, and power tools, for example, can play a role. Knowing the hazards in your work area, marking them properly, and making sure your employees are trained in electrical safety will help prevent injuries and death. Be sure to follow all safety procedures when dealing with power lines and electric equipment. 

For more information on how to protect yourself and your employees from electrocution, read this blog post on electrical safety.

Is This Right For You?

Too often people think that DIYing their next roofing project is going to save them time and money. This can be true, but unless you’re prepared for every safety precaution, a DIY project can easily turn dangerous or even deadly. You should never sacrifice safety to save money. 

Here are three questions you should ask yourself before deciding to tackle a roofing project by yourself:

  • Do you have the proper equipment?
  • Do you have the knowledge?
  • Do you have the time?

You need quality tools and proper training to ensure the success of a roofing project. If you don’t have the right equipment, a simple DIY project on your roof can cost you more than just money. Roofing projects can get pretty complex, and if you don’t have the equipment and knowledge you could be unsafe. Working safely also takes longer than working dangerously, but it is well worth it. If you don’t have the time and patience to put into your project, then DIY is not for you.

DIY projects can save money, and may even get your project finished faster, but they can be dangerous. Calling a contractor could end up saving you money, time, and more importantly, prevent injury or worse. Learn more about the dangers of DIY here.

How IRC Can help

Staying safe up on the roof is not hard, but it may require a little more time and effort than you might expect. Injuries and deaths in the workplace, however, are easily preventable with the proper safety measures in place.

Safety is also the number one reason we recommend using a professional roofing contractor to do work on your roof. Not only are you sure to get knowledgeable workers and high-quality results, but you can rest assured that the workers on your roof are being as safe as possible.

Here at IRC, we take safety seriously. Our employees all go through exhaustive safety training. We want our employees trained so no injuries or fatalities happen on the job.

Our workers are regularly trained in electrical safety, fall protection, eye and face protection, respiratory protection, and minor safety precautions.

All we want at the end of the day is for everyone to be safe. If you’d like to learn more about how you can remain safe on your roof or you need a team of professionals to work on your roof, give us a call today

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