Commercial Roofing Safety Checklist - Keeping Our Roofers Safe At All Times
Commercial Roofing Is A Dangerous Job That Needs To Be Taken Seriously. This Guide Details The Measures We Go Through In Order To Keep Our Crews Safe.
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Safety Over Everything
Accidents are bound to occur in busy workplaces. However, when working at height, the magnitude of an accident is completely different from an office accident. For example, a slip and fall in an office can lead to some aches and pains, none that would be comparable to a worker falling several stories off a roof.
The latter is likely to be disastrous with serious injuries, paralysis, or even death.
What The Numbers Tell Us
- About 11% of roofers work-related deaths result from burns
- 445 workers die from electrical currents between 2003 and 2007. 26 of these were roofers
- 4,100 roofers suffered from non-fatal electrical injuries between 2003 and 2007
- Falls are responsible for three-fourths of all roofer fatalities
- There is an average of 12 fatal falls in the US daily; one in five of these are in the construction industry
These numbers are sobering. With falls, for example, the figures above mainly focus on fatalities. The number of affected roofers is much higher when you sum up workers who survived their falls but suffered serious injuries.
While all might seem gloomy, it actually isn’t. Many of these incidences can be prevented with proper commercial roofing safety equipment.
This is where roofing safety equipment checklists come in.
Commercial Roofing Safety Equipment
Most areas have OSHA laws or their equivalent to protect employees. The general duty clause stipulates that employers must provide employees with a place of employment that’s free from recognized hazards.
To comply with this, roofing companies need to provide adequate training to their roofers and proper protective equipment, at the very least.
Equipment used to keep roofers safe can be classified into four categories, all working together to provide adequate protection.
- Personal protection equipment (PPE)
- Fall protection equipment
- Fall arrest equipment
- Fall restraint (protection) equipment
Personal Protective Equipment
The basic starting point for all contractor job sites is personal protective equipment, abbreviated as PPE.
This is equipment is worn to lessen workers’ exposure to certain hazards. As such, PPE’s protect roofers’ ears, eyes, hands, head, feet and head.
Here are the most common items under this category:
Hardhats serve as protection from head injuries. These can be caused by falling objects, fixed objects, and equipment. Any hardhat won’t do. Construction grade protective hardhats must have shock, penetration, and water-resistant qualities. The material they are made from must also be slow-burning.
As such, industrial class hats are divided into:
These provide penetration and impact resistance as well as protection from electrical hazards.
These will provide penetration and impact resistance. Additionally, class B hardhats offer the highest level of protection against electrical hazards. These include burn and high voltage shock protection.
Class C hardhats will provide protection from impact, but none from electrical hazards.
Hardhats should always be replaced whenever they absorb any impact or damage, even when the human eye cannot see the damage.
Foot guards, Leggings, and safety shoes
Foot guards, leggings, and safety shoes protect workers from falls, sharp objects, slippery floors, rolling, hot surfaces, and electrical hazards.
These PPE include:
These are often made from aluminized rayon or leather and have safety snaps for quick removal. These protect legs and feet.
These are made from plastic, aluminum, or steel and are worn over a wearer’s shoes to protect them from impact.
These come in a range of special-purpose footwear. An example of these is electrically conductive shoes that protect against static build-up.
These are guards strapped outside workers’ shoes to protect the top part of the foot from compression injuries.
These are essential in any workplace where injurious items might roll onto or fall on the feet.
Earmuffs and Earplugs
Construction sites produce a lot of noise. Working in such an environment for hours on end day after day can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
Workplaces where workers work in a noisy environment, should be fitted with earplugs or muffs. Earplugs are inserted in the ear canal and can be pre-molded, roll down foam, custom folded, or pushed to fit.
On the other hand, ear muffs have sound-muffling properties. These are fitted around soft ear cushions and harder outer casings. They are then held together by a headband, which helps keep them on as workers perform their duties.
Arm coverings, finger guards, and gloves protect employees from skin damage from harsh chemicals, cuts, punctures, and thermal burns.
Employers should have different gloves to handle the task at hand adequately while providing varying grip requirements. Gloves can be made from canvas, metal mesh, leather, insulating rubber, and so on.
Gloves need to fit well but without restraining movement.
Eye protection is fundamental in protecting employees’ eyes from chemical gases, harmful radiation, flying particles, hot liquids, molten material, and so on.
Depending on the scope of the projects, roofers can wear:
- General safety glasses
- Laser safety glasses
- Chemical splash goggles
- Impact googles
- Face shields
Whichever type you provide must be a close-fit, cleanable, comfortable on the face, and should not restrict movement or vision.
Some of the compounds roofers breathe in during construction projects can cause respiratory problems in the long run. As such, respirators have long been used to shield employees from inhaling air laden with dust, sprays, fumes, and gases.
This PPE must fit snuggly enough to cover the nose and mouth adequately. N95 filtering face masks are the most commonly used and even recommended by OSHA.
This is largely due to the manufacturing standards they are subjected to. Once manufactured, a sample mask from each batch is tested for breathing, inflammability, splash resistance, bacteria, and particle infiltration efficiency.
When these are unavailable, the alternatives include powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA), and supplies air respirators (SARs).
Fall Protection And Fall Arrest Equipment
Construction workers working six feet and above are at risk of serious injury, paralysis, or death should they fall. Special protection is then required to protect them against these outcomes.
The equipment used to do this can be classified under fall protection or personal fall arrest equipment.
The devices in this category include:
These harnesses are designed to hold the wearer upright if they fall from height. When worn correctly, full-body harnesses will the energy generated during the fall evenly across the body. This minimizes the potential for serious harm.
These are often the go-to for working at height because they allow freedom of movement, allowing roofers to get their jobs done seamlessly.
Additionally, they provide support for the entire body, including legs, hips, shoulders, and chest.
Full-body harnesses come with some common features. The main ones are:
- D-ring attachment to secure workers to a fall arrest lanyard
- A durable nylon or polyester webbing
- Adjustable straps to allow each wearer to get a snug fit
- A weight limit
A full-body harness should fit comfortably and be free of wear and tear to provide adequate protection.
These provide a physical barrier between workers and fall hazards as they are placed at the edge of a roof where construction workers are working on. Done well, guardrails will offer ample protection from falls.
Guardrail systems consist of:
- The top rail at a height of 42 inches above the walking or working level. This can be give or take plus or minus 3 inches.
- A midrail at 21 inches above the walking or working level
- A 3.5-inch tall toe board. This is meant to prevent objects on the working surface from falling and possibly injuring people on lower levels
- Must be able to withstand a 200-pound force exerted to the top rail in a downward or outward direction
- All mid-rails, screens, mesh, and intermediate vertical panels should be able to withstand a 150 pound-force in an outward or downward direction
- Mesh and screens, whenever used, must cover the guardrail from the top rail to the working level
- Never use plastic or steel banding in a guardrail system
Warning line systems
These use flag lines and stand to let workers know they are approaching an unprotected side or edge. This means that there is an edge without guardrails or a wall.
Employees can work unrestricted inside this perimeter without being at risk of falling. However, if a worker needs to go beyond the perimeter, they need other fall prevention or arrest systems like full-body harnesses or safety nets.
Fall protection carts
Fall protection carts are protection systems that offer mobile anchorage for contactors when on projects that place them near edges.
For these, roofers will wear harnesses or body belts. These are then connected to a cart using a lanyard. The worker is then moved in the cart along the building’s edge. Because the cart is properly anchored, it ensures a worker is safe by stopping them from falling or breaking their fall should they take a fall.
This is a personal lanyard system with an integrated deceleration device. This device extends a person’s deceleration distance between 3.5ft and 5ft, depending on the device’s design.
One feature of shock-absorbing lanyards that helps protect workers is its shock-absorbing lanyard that expands during a fall. This reduces the fall arrest force.
Most shock-absorbing lanyards require an additional 3.5 feet of travel for their deceleration mechanism to function properly. This is in addition to the standard 6 feet lanyard length.
Similar to lanyards are lifelines which are flexible ropes connected to an anchor.
These can be vertical, where a lifeline is connected to the anchorage on one end. The other is horizontal, where the lifeline is connected at both ends.
OSHA requires a lifeline to hold at least 5,000 pounds.
These are mesh or webbed systems made of synthetic or natural fibers. Most are made from polypropylene rope or nylon and hang below a skylight or roof site to break a fall. Aside from breaking a fall, safety nets are designed to absorb the energy of a fall to minimize the chances of a worker being injured.
There are federal regulations around what safety nets have to be made of, the number of pounds they can withstand, and how often they should be tested.
Safety aside, safety nets are passive, unrestrictive forms of fall arrest, meaning workers can move around the workspace easily as they get their job done.
Training For Safety
Having multiple layers of safety systems to protect workers is one part of the safety equation. The other bit is ensuring workers know how to use the safety equipment.
This is the role of training.
For example, having a full harness that’s improperly fastened or worn will do little to protect you from a fall. Therefore, employers have to ensure employees are properly trained on using the equipment and how much protection to expect from the different types.
Another thing employers need to do is train employees on hazard recognition. They must also get some training in inspecting, assembling, disassembling, and maintaining all fall protection equipment.
Getting The Best Out Of Your Safety Equipment
By and large, you need your safety equipment to be in great condition and do its job well to protect your employees adequately.
Buy Trusted Brands
Start things off right by buying all your safety equipment from trusted, reputable brands. These follow strict industry standards and perform extensive testing on all their products. This will prevent premature wear and tear and prevent malfunctions.
Some safety equipment requires regular servicing. Determine what these requirements are upon purchase and keep up with the service schedule as needed.
This will require you to take inventory and create a servicing plan to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
It would help if you inspected your safety equipment regularly. This should help you point out any flaws or damage on equipment that might cause it to malfunction.
Similarly, train employees to spot any issues on their equipment and report these immediately.
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