Keeping Your Team Safe
by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.
(Editor’s Note: Darin Douglas began roofing in 1997 after graduating from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lowe Roofing, Inc., is a family-owned roofing company that has been in operation since 1975 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merge 3 Technology, Inc., helps contractors track and control their safety processes and efforts on a daily basis. Douglas also served on the WSRCA Board of Directors for nine years and was the chair of the Safety and Health Committee and Low-Slope Committee.)
The roofing industry is full of hazards to be aware of, and one of the most prevalent risks daily are slips, trips, and fall hazards. Whether it’s material; equipment; tools in the work area; or structural hazards like skylights, curbs, or vent pipes, a slip, trip, or fall could lead to lost wages, missed workdays, disability, or even death. These types of accidents account for 15% of all accidental deaths annually.
Slip, trip, or fall accidents can happen anywhere and anytime throughout the workday. They are the most frequently reported accidents, along with being one of the most preventable accidents. Falls account for nine million emergency room visits per year, while slips and trips account for one million visits. The national average cost of a slip, trip, and fall accident has been calculated as high as $40,000 per occurrence when accounting for lost wages, lost productivity, and medical costs.
A slip can be defined as too little friction between a worker’s feet and the walking/working surface. This can result in loss of balance and possible injury. Common causes of slips on roofing projects are water, ice, debris, loose material, and spills. Make sure your working surface is clear of any slip hazards before beginning work and train your team to recognize the dangers and handle them accordingly.
Trip hazards are all over a roofing project, so a plan needs to be in place to limit the danger. Train your team to keep materials, tools, and equipment picked up and in the proper place. Mark all elevation changes along with any small holes in the roof deck. Structural trip hazards such as roof curbs, vent pipes, or gas lines are not always installed at the start of the project, so make sure your team is aware of additional trip hazards as they present themselves.
Fall hazards are a huge part of roofing and can lead to severe injury or death. OSHA requires fall protection anywhere a worker can fall 6’ or more. Common fall hazards in roofing are unprotected roof edges, holes in the roof deck, ladders, and scaffolds. Fall protection plans can be used to address the unprotected sides while holes and openings need to be covered and marked as they present themselves. Fall hazards are an ever-changing danger on a jobsite and require constant attention.
With so many moving parts on a project, sometimes the little things can be missed, which can lead to slip, trip, and fall accidents. Take the time to properly train your team to handle these hazards. At the same time, educate them on project safety planning and the importance of conducting daily project meetings. It takes a consistent team effort to keep everyone safe and free from injury.