Common Roof Hazards

Derek Tokarz

Derek Tokarz

Certified in Safety Management Group's Training in Fall Protection

Common Roof Hazards title image

A solid and reliable roof is one of the most crucial elements of a safe building. Regular maintenance and repairs are important to keep your roof in proper working order. However, serious bodily injury can occur if workers are not careful when performing repairs. 

You need to know how to identify any fall warning signs that could pose a hazard to ensure your site’s safety. Keep reading to learn about the most common rooftop fall hazards and practical solutions for these dangers.

What to Look Out for While Working on a Roof

The first step to preventing roof falls is understanding the common hazards that cause such accidents. By learning how to spot potential dangers when working on any roof, workers can help keep themselves and other members of their teams safe. Evaluating a roof that needs maintenance or repairs should always be done before any work begins. When taking on any roofing project, remember to go over these key cautionary points. 

Determine the Stability of the Roof

An unstable roof is a recipe for disaster. Always check the roof in question for its structural integrity. Will it sufficiently hold the weight of workers and equipment without falling through? Are all of the important parts, such as tresses, fully intact?  You should check every roof more than once for signs of weakness and instability before allowing workers to begin any kind of repairs.

Locate Roof Holes

Whether it is a skylight that has not yet been covered or there are damaged areas, holes in a roof pose serious fall hazards. Awareness of any holes and hatches can prevent workers from falling through and getting seriously injured. It’s easy to find and mark roof holes to prevent any life-threatening accidents.

Examine the Roof Pitch

Not all roofs sit at the same pitch or angle. For their safety, workers must be aware of the steepness of every roof. A roof with a low pitch that is less angled and more flat will pose less of a falling risk than a roof with a steep pitch. Workers should always carefully check roof materials, especially on steep pitches, to ensure that they are properly secured to prevent slipping. It is also important to figure out the safest ways to manage split-level roofing. 

Consider Weather Conditions

Weather can seriously impact the safety of any roofing project. Various surfaces, especially membranes, become very slippery when covered in snow, ice and rain. Not only that, but heavy snowfall adds extra weight to a roof that may already have structural issues. Workers should always consider the weather to decide whether or not it is actually safe to carry out roofing work without fall hazards being a concern. Extreme temperatures should also be considered to prevent health issues as well as construction issues. 

Know the Line of Sight 

Many things on a roof can impede the continuous line of sight while working. Workers must learn how to safely navigate around ridge vents, chimneys, equipment, supplies and even other workers.  It is critical to always maintain a good line of sight while moving around on any roof to reduce the risk of falling or knocking another worker down. 

Create Edge Awareness

Not only can it be easy for structures, supplies and workers to impede line of sight, but they can also disorient workers so that they lose the edge of the roof. Maintaining caution and awareness of the roof edge at all times is paramount to not accidentally stepping too close and falling off. This attention is also important when moving around other workers to ensure collisions do not happen that could send someone falling over the edge. 

Installing highly visual markers like KATTGUARD™ permanent warning line systems in hazardous areas is a great way to ensure your workers are aware of risks at all times. You can even combine KATTGUARD™ Warning Lines with our KATTGUARD™ Aluminum Roof Guardrail systems to provide a complete solution to the problem. 

Manage Debris

One of the biggest tripping hazards while working on a roofing project is debris. Anything from tools to tree branches can pose a major risk for tripping and falling. Workers should always ensure that their workspace is clear of anything that could catch their footing and cause them to fall from the roof.

Ensure Proper Training and Equipment Usage

If a worker lacks the proper training for roofing projects, the consequences could be fatal. All workers who are assigned to roofing maintenance and repairs should have the proper training and experience with all safety elements. Proper understanding of safety equipment and how to use it is also an absolute necessity for keeping workers and the rest of their team from becoming victims of roof fall hazards. 

What Are Common Warning Signs?

There are common warning signs that all workers can learn to recognize to prevent a roof fall. Workers who know what red flags to look for when beginning any roofing project will not only help keep themselves safe but also other workers around them. Certain warnings should not be ignored and should be addressed immediately. Identifying and addressing these typical warning signs can prevent roof fall hazards and remove serious risks of bodily injury.

Lack of Safe Access Points

It is important to consider the safety of how all workers gain access to a roof. The most common ways of getting on a roof to perform maintenance or repairs are via a roof hatch, walk-out doors, and the use of exterior stairs or ladders. Carefully evaluating each of these elements in your workplace is important to identify and eliminate the following hazards:

Unsecured Ladders

When setting up exterior ladders, there are certain steps to take to be extra cautious. The feet should always be stable and the top of the ladder should always be secured to the roof whenever it is possible. Permanently attached ladders should always be rust-free and in good condition.

Unsafe Hatches

Workers should always take caution when entering a roof via a hatch because there is always the chance that a hatch could be too close to the roof’s edge. Extreme caution should be used to prevent falling upon stepping out of a hatch, as well as falling back into the hatch once it is open.

For maximum safety, install guardrails around your hatches. We offer KATTGUARD™ aluminum roof hatch guardrail systems for worker safety. These hatch guards help to provide safe, secure access to all rooftop areas whether you’re going up or down. Plus, they’re built to last, with fully insulated, galvanized 14-gauge steel covers.  The covers are part of our roof hatches not the roof hatch guardrail

Tripping Hazards

Hatches, ladders and trim around walk-out doors can all come with tripping hazards. Roof workers should always be careful to not get caught up when trying to gain access to the roof.

Open Rooftop Edges

Rooftop edges pose an obvious fall hazard. However, there are important things to consider that can make some rooftops more of a hazard than others. Not all rooftops are made the same and knowing how to properly identify potentially dangerous edges can ensure worker safety. Rooftops without railings or roof guardrails around the perimeters should be worked on with the utmost caution.

Installing guardrails is a great way to prevent falls. We offer our KATTGUARD™ Aluminum Roof Guardrail systems in multiple configurations to ensure a good fit for every workplace. Because we only use reliable materials and proven construction methods, you can trust us to deliver the safest result possible. We also offer the opportunity to choose custom colors in addition to the standard mill finished aluminum or safety yellow so that you can stay true to the aesthetics of your building.

Unsafe Walking Paths

Any work done on a roof should be done with the availability of a clear and safe walking path. Direct paths from one s

Any work done on a roof should be done with the availability of a clear and safe walking path. Direct paths from one side of the roof to the other are not always the safest. Workers must be aware of any obstacles in place, such as pipes, varying roof heights and roof vents. Certain features such as skylights, hatches and smoke vents should have guards around them to prevent anyone from falling in. Damaged or weakened areas on a roof should also be clearly indicated and approached with caution. 

Our KATTWALK™ aluminum walkway systems feature an advanced non-slip surface to prevent falls. They work by leveling out steep or uneven areas to allow safe passage even when weather conditions are less than ideal.

KATTWALK™ systems are made of light but strong aluminum that’s designed to last, and they’re suitable for both membrane and built-up roof systems. When we install KATTWALK™ systems, we cut the panels to length and angle on-site to ensure the best fit. Plus, they come in an aesthetically pleasing mill finish so you never have to sacrifice style for safety.

Less-Than-Perfect Lighting and Weather

As previously mentioned, weather makes a big impact on the safety of rooftop projects. Precipitation can make ro

Like we said, the weather has a big impact on the safety of rooftop projects. Precipitation can make rooftops extremely slick and pose a serious fall hazard. Any time the weather is less than ideal, all workers should cease operations until more appropriate conditions arrive. 

When it comes to withstanding bad weather, our DukMat™ Non-Penetrating Flexible Walkway Systems are hard to beat. These walkways are incredibly durable, with stable construction that stays in place even in hurricane-level winds. They’re also flexible, easy to install and suitable for flat roof systems of various materials. Simply roll your DukMat™ across your intended walking area and you’re ready to go.

You should also provide proper lighting in your workplace. Your workers always need to be able to see where they are going whether it is night or day. Dim lighting can cause the loss of a roof edge, tripping over objects and other roof fall hazards. 

What You Can Do

Although many workplaces have an abundance of fall warning signs on the roof to watch out for, there are things that workers can do to properly protect themselves from harm. With proper understanding, workers can learn how to fix roof fall hazards to make any roofing project a safe experience. Every worker is responsible for not only their own safety but also for cultivating a safe workspace for other members of their team. Taking these simple yet essential steps to identify common fall hazards can help prevent serious injuries. 

Clear Debris and Contaminants From Work Areas

There are numerous kinds of debris that can cause a slippery surface for a tripping hazard. All debris should be cleared from a roofing project including water, dead foliage, oils, dust, and plastic. Loose or raised membrane should be addressed. Tools and equipment should also be organized and maintained in a manner that will not pose a risk of tripping and falling. Workers should always take caution to properly position cords, ropes, and safety harnesses so they do not hinder movement. 

Demarcate Hazardous Perimeters

If there are hazardous areas, such as hatches and skylights without rails or roof edges without roofing guardrails, demarcating can be one of the most important steps to take. Workers should always indicate these areas with clearly visible markers that will designate them as a hazardous space. Workers should pay attention to all demarcated areas and use extra caution when working around them. Signage is also important around the work area along with demarcations to draw attention to potential hazards. 

Ensure Proper Lighting at All Times

Stairways, ladders, and walkways may be dimly lit, even during daylight hours. Workers should always take care to ensure that there is an ample amount of lighting to easily see to walk around and ascend and descend stairs or ladders. Proper lighting will also make demarcations more visible, which makes workers more aware of hazardous areas on the roof. Plus, it will lend visibility to rooftop objects like chimneys. 

Double-Check Ladder and Platform Stability

All ladders should be properly secured and safe for use. Workers should always examine ladders to ensure that they are

All ladders should be properly secured and safe for use. Before climbing up, workers should always examine ladders to ensure that they are in proper working order. There should be no rust or anything else that would require repairs or replacements. If this is the case, workers should use a different ladder or a lift to gain access to the roof without risking fatal accidents or serious injuries. Additionally, all scaffolds and platforms should be checked for malfunctions that could pose a safety risk.

If you or one of your workers finds rust or other significant wear on your ladders, it might be time to invest in a new system. A well-mounted ladder system, like one of our KATTCLIMB™ fixed ladders, is a great choice for any rooftop construction team. They’re made of lightweight high-tensile aluminum, so they’re more resistant to rust and corrosion than steel. These products require less maintenance to stay compliant with workplace regulations, so you can save on repairs and replacements.

You can make your KATTCLIMB™ ladder even safer with add-ons like integrated fall arrest systemssupport brackets, and even security solutions like locking cage gates and access doors.

Eliminate Risk of Falling Objects 

When working from scaffolds or other platforms, it can be easy to accidentally knock something off the raised work area to lower landings, which can cause injury to those working below you. Designating certain areas for keeping tools and supplies can help prevent objects from being scattered on the ground and knocked onto other workers. 

Make a plan for safe roof work

Every roofing project should have a plan designed to determine the tasks that need to be accomplished. Evaluating the potential fall hazards on the roof and implementing steps to prevent falls is crucial. It is also ideal for deciding which personal protective equipment (PPE) will be needed to keep all workers safe. Quick yet informative meetings with all team members on the project are also a good idea to remind everyone of the hazards that are around and to help prevent accidents. 

Wear Appropriate Personal Protection Equipment

Workers should always wear the appropriate attire and equipment when working on roofing projects. Proper footwear with traction, hard helmets, gloves, wet weather gear and fall protection harnesses all play a vital role in the safety of workers to prevent common roof fall hazards.

It’s also important to regularly check that your PPE is in good working condition so that it does its job effectively without posing a risk for accidents. 

Don’t just take our word for it, though. OSHA requires proper use of PPE on all worksites in order to maintain compliance. 

Provide Training and Education 

Educating workers on general roof hazards and how to identify them as well as how to maintain compliance with fall protection standards is key to safety. It is also ideal for workers to understand how to properly erect, maintain, disassemble, inspect and use fall protection systems. This is crucial to maintaining safety equipment that will perform as it should and reduce the risks of roof falls. Workers should also learn the proper method for reporting fall protection issues they may discover. 

Retraining is also crucial for maintaining safety compliance within your operation, especially when safety procedures or PPE requirements change. It’s always helpful to hold a refresher course if significant time has passed between training sessions to reinforce proper methods. 

Trust FIXFAST USA for Your Roofing Safety Needs

Established in 1975, FIXFAST USA has been working hard to ensure workers get home to their families safely. We believe that every worker should have access to the safest industrial roof systems available. That’s why FIXFAST USA provides a wide range of safety systems specifically designed with working from heights in mind.

All of our products are compliant with OSHA regulations and eliminate the many hazards that come with working from high places. From guardrails to safety harnesses and everything between, you can trust us at FIXFAST USA to keep you safe while you get the job done. 

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff are here to serve you and provide you with the best protection equipment solutions. If you have any questions about our products, you can contact us to learn how we can help you maximize your operation’s safety today. 

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