Because of the possibility of serious injury and death in roofing work and working at heights, the Occupational Health and Safety Act has specific regulations regarding fall protection, scaffolding, elevated work platforms, and stairs and ladders. OSHA provides a variety of assistance with compliance tools, workplace consultations, guidance documents, fact sheets, pocket guides, posters, brochures and booklets, as well as published standards, to define, explain and educate about legal compliance regulations for roof work safety.
Types of Elevated Work Platforms
Scaffolds, ladders, hoists and aerial lifts are all used in roofing work so workers can reach their work areas on top of homes and other buildings. Scaffolds are raised platforms consisting of poles and planks assembled to support workers and materials during work at heights. Various types of ladders include extension ladders, fixed ladders, step ladders, folding ladders and hook ladders. Hoists are mechanical devices used to lift or lower a load and include winches, cranes, elevators, pulleys and lifts. Aerial lifts are devices with some sort of enclosure such as cabins, cars or covered chairs moved by cables to quickly reach a location. All of these elevated work platforms are used in the roofing industry.
Elevated Work Platform Hazards
Elevated work platform hazards include falls from elevated levels, falling objects, tip-overs, structural failures, electrocution from contact with overhead power sources, and entanglement. Elevated work platform hazards result in injuries such as broken bones, head injuries, crush injuries and fatalities.
Safely Working at Heights
Safety preparation to work at heights and from elevated work platforms includes training, prestart inspections, work zone inspections, falling object protection and fall protection equipment. OSHA has standards in both general industry and construction regarding walking and working surfaces, ladders, cranes, scaffolds, powered platforms, fall arrest systems and elevated platforms.
Roof Safety Tips
Besides regulatory compliance with OSHA rules, roof safety tips make roofing work sites safer for everyone. Remove and lock up ladders, rolling equipment and materials at the end of the work day to prevent accidents with passersby when workers aren't present. Do not leave tools, materials or equipment on roofs overnight. Follow all original equipment manufacturer's instructions for scaffolding assembly, and inspect supports, braces and locks daily. Never work at heights alone; always work with at least one other person. Use extreme caution near overhead power lines and utility cabinets.
- "Elevated Work Platforms and Scaffolding: Job Site Safety Manual"; Matthew Burkhart et al.; 2004
- United States Department of Labor; OSHA Safety Requirements for Scaffolding; OSHA;
- National Safety Council; Responsible Roofing; NSC; 2011
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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