Roofing is one of the only industries in which working from heights is a common part of day-to-day work. Despite the many health and safety regulations put in place to ensure that all work at height is carried out as safely as possible, approximately 80 major injuries every year are caused by falls from heights such as roofs, and 20% of all fatal workplace accidents occur because someone has fallen from a significant height. (Source)
At GM Roofers, we always ensure that every member of our team has received up-to-date roofer safety training before starting any job that involves working at height. Not only does adhering to health and safety standards mean that accidents are kept to a minimum, but it also means that our customers can feel safe in the knowledge that their homes will not be damaged by any equipment or worker mishaps.
After many years of working in the construction industry, we certainly know a thing or two about roofer safety. Here are some of our top tips for avoiding accidents and keeping safe when working at heights.
Assess the Risk
Before any potentially hazardous work takes place, a complete risk assessment must be carried out. When working at heights, you must first assess whether it is possible to carry out the work on the ground instead of at height, to entirely remove the risk of any falls.
If this is not possible, then all potential risks must be identified and the appropriate health and safety precautions must be put in place to minimise any risk before the work goes ahead.
Ensure Safe Access
Getting up to a roof can be just as dangerous as actually working up there, which is why access must be made as safe as possible before any work begins as well. Methods of access could include scaffolding, ladders, mobile access equipment or roof hatches.
All of these modes of access must be risk assessed as well as the actual work that will be done on a roof, and all members of a construction team should know how to safely use these access points.
Use Appropriate Equipment
One of the biggest causes of workplace accidents is faulty or misused equipment, which is why it is so important to check that all the equipment on your site is fully functional and has been well-maintained. Regular tests should be carried out to ensure machines and tools are still safe to use, and any issues should be dealt with straight away to remove risk.
All members of a team working on a roofing project should also be given the appropriate protective equipment to keep them safe whilst working at heights or elsewhere on the site, such as helmets, reflective jackets and gloves or other safety gear.
Watch for Edges and Openings
Many falls from heights happen at roof edges and openings, so it is incredibly important to be aware of these dangerous parts of the roof and make sure they are clearly marked. Roofer safety techniques in these scenarios include making sure all team members are aware of roof edges and openings and fitting edge protection to any eaves or terraced roofs.
Protect Fragile Surfaces
Fragile surfaces are another key area that many roofing accidents are caused by, and all necessary safety measures must be taken to protect these. All roofs must be tested before it is agreed that they can bear the weight of a person, and any surfaces that do not pass this test must be reinforced.
Methods of protecting fragile roofs include adding fall restraints, installing stagings and guard rails, and making sure there are safety nets beneath and close to the fragile roof. Fragile rooflights should be covered and labelled with a warning so that nobody accidentally puts pressure on them and falls through.
Implement Emergency Procedures
Whilst the above steps should help to reduce the risk of falling from a height as much as possible, construction workers such as roofers should still have an emergency procedure in place just in case the worst does happen. Make sure that the whole team is aware of what to do if an accident does take place, and check that rescue services will be able to access your site if necessary.
Falls from heights result in more than 200 absences every year that last for over 3 days and have a significant impact on businesses like building and roofing companies. Don’t let easily preventable mistakes take their toll – always following the latest roofer safety advice and keep every member of your team safe.