The roof is a dangerous place to work from, owing to several risk factors including height, slope, slippery surface, electrical contacts and weather elements. A surprisingly large number of falling cases occur on low single-storey rooftops between 3m and 5m high. However, the causes of falling are easy to determine and avoid. Here are six tips to minimise dangers while working on the roof:
1. Gear Up for the Job
Wearing the proper clothing for a roofing job is crucial in ensuring personal safety as well as the safety of co-workers. Besides protecting from falling hazards, the construction gear also guarantees safety in handling and working with hazardous material and tools. Here is a list of important builder’s gear recommended and necessary for every roof builder:
Gloves protect your hands from cuts while handling sharp objects like metal roofing material or metal roof cladding. They also provide insulation from heat, cold and electricity. Construction gloves are tough; their rough surface texture gives additional grip for a firm handle on tools and equipment.
The sturdy construction boots have a thick, nearly impenetrable rubber sole that protects the foot from injury while walking on sharp objects and provides grip on slippery surfaces. The design of the boot offers flexible support to the ankles and toes while working in various positions and surfaces.
A helmet or hardhat is a must-have builder’s accessory. Helmets protect the head from overhead falling objects which are common on a roof construction site.
Having something suddenly caught in your eye can evoke a reckless reflex response that can lead to a fall. Protective goggles keep your eyes open on the job by shielding them from harmful glare and stopping the intrusion of objects like debris and dust.
High Visibility Jacket
High visibility jackets are a builder’s best item of clothing for staying visible to other workers in the work area. Being easily spotted may protect you from unforeseen and yet avoidable dangers.
Masks are only recommended in a work environment containing dangerous inhalable substances, such as excessive dust, asbestos or smoke.
The usefulness of the gear relies on its condition. Before using any gear, examine it for tears or damage that might compromise its safety value. Also, ensure that it is clean and dry.
While working as a team, it is essential to keep tabs on every individual’s activities for synchronisation and safety purposes. A simple radio communications system will allow everyone to communicate to the rest of the team; this is especially helpful in a large working area.
The need for safety harnesses, even on low roofs, cannot be overstated. Mistakes happen, and workers often get used to the height they’re working at and forget the dangers. A harness serves as the final line of protection to catch the fall. Also, you can work in a more precarious position using a harness to access the edge of the roof.
2. Check the Integrity of the Roof
Always assess the strength of a roof before working on it. Check whether the work area can support the weight of the workers along with their tools, equipment and material. Mark out weak spots like cracks, water damage and gaping holes to guide other workers. Damaged and weak areas can be identified from beneath and on top of the roof.
You also need to check whether the roof sheets and layout can take any additional weight without caving. Brittle cladding, for instance, may require a re-evaluation of the roof-access approach. A solution in accessing and moving unstable and brittle roof comes through the use of roof ladders and crawl boards. Roof ladders securely anchor onto strong support structures on the roof, while crawl boards distribute the weight over a larger area, minimising the load on a single spot and the likelihood of the roof breaking.
3. Edge Awareness
Sometimes the roof’s edge is not always apparent.
You should mark the edge of the roof preferably with a reflective ribbon so that you are constantly reminded of how far you should tread. On very high roofs, construction managers go as far as to install guardrails to mark the edge of the roof and create an edge buffer. Even with the designated marking, avoid distractions and always remain aware and cautious of the slope and the distance you have to the edge of the roof.
4. Keep an Eye on Electrical Hazards
The roof can include several electrical hazards, whether it’s from power tools, overhead electrical cables, or the building’s wiring. The first step in ensuring safety from electrical hazards is checking the roof itself for exposed electrical wiring and making sure it is switched off or removed. Remember also that electric fixtures can be punctured accidentally when you’re working on the roof.
Electrical tools’ cabling must be adequately insulated to prevent the risk of electric shock. Roofs are usually well clear of power lines; the edges, however, may get dangerously close with the additional height of a standing worker. The best way to deal with the danger of power lines is to erect a plastic mesh barrier between the lines and workers below. This prevents possible contact with raised arms or metallic tools.
5. Always Work in Good Weather
It is dangerous to work on the roof in wet, cold or windy weather, especially on non-absorbent roof surfaces and when working against metal wall cladding at large heights which gets very slippery when wet. Strong winds can blow away loose material to create dangerous projectiles and can knock you off balance. Snow and ice collect on the roof in cold weather, and even with gripping boots, the freezing roof remains a slipping hazard.
6. Select the Right Equipment and Tools
Always ensure you use the correct tools for the job. This will make the work easier and less frustrating, while yielding predictable results. The right tools and equipment will also enable you to work in a better position on the roof, reducing the risk of accidents.
Safety is crucial in every work environment, and especially so where the danger factors are fatal, like on a rooftop. However, by working as a team and observing a level of discipline and awareness, you can avert these dangers.
At Bushbury Cladding, we offer roof-building advice and information about our metal roofing sheets and roofing solutions. Contact us today to find out more about roofing.