If you’re a homeowner, you’re probably accustomed to – or at least resigned to – getting on your roof a few times a year. There are coolers to service, vents to cover, chimneys to decorate. While you might appreciate the view, some of us teeter with vertigo, anxious to return to steady ground. For those of us who don’t love heights, it’s all the more amazing to watch a roofing crew tearing up old material and tossing it to the ground, operating nail guns and other tools with such ease and efficiency. You can tell they’re completely comfortable up there, twenty-five feet off the ground. All day their small army scurries around, a beehive of activity from daybreak to dusk, pausing only briefly for lunch, their legs hanging over the edge. No big deal, if you’re used to it.
Actually, roofing can be a dangerous occupation. A USA Today article published last year ranked roofing as number four in a list of the 25 most dangerous jobs. Other sources cite roofers as having the fifth-highest work-related death rate in construction – 30 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers, double the average of all construction workers. Each year, approximately 50 roofers are killed doing their work. Fifty percent of the deaths are falls from roof edges.
In roofing, even a small mistake is made bigger by the fact that the work is taking place some distance off the ground. 26.7 percent of non-fatal accidents are caused by falling to a lower level. When a roofer is injured, their average time away from work is 20 days, longer than in other jobs. More than 80 percent of fatalities are slips, trips and falls. It goes without saying that protecting the people that do roofing work is priority number one. Putting safety first also ensures a more productive workforce, keeps projects on time and on budget, preserves the highest quality of work, and maintains compliance with OSHA standards.
OSHA does not tell employers which system they need to use as long as their employees are protected. They can use a guardrail system if the rails meet the minimum safety requirements and dimensions.
(From 1926.501, OSHA Standards): Unprotected sides and edges." Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.”
Construction managers, contractors and their employees can find standardized training and certifications through OSHA. On-site consultation is always available, as are study guides and other printed materials, and online, self-paced training courses. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) offers OSHA certifications through courses and webinars on regulations, safety, industry standards, and workplace hazards. Chances are one or more of your local community colleges offer safety courses for various occupations and certification requirements.
Construction is hard physical work. Move it off the ground and there is an element of risk that requires a different set of skills. Fortunately, there are responsible employers committed to ensuring the safety of their people. If you’re going to perform higher-risk work, you deserve to be as safe as possible.
We wrote the book on good roofing practices. Call or visit the experts at Arapahoe roofing: 303.466.7386; Arapahoeroofing.com.