Safety Corner: Practice Makes Perfect

Roofing Safe Practices to Live By

by Stephen Zasadil, WSRCA Safety Consultant, president, SNK Services LLC










(Editor’s Note: Stephen Zasadil spent ten years as a safety of flight operator with the United States Navy before beginning his career as a safety compliance consultant in 2009. He currently works with companies across the United States to provide OSHA compliance information, documentation, and training.)


Roofing is a dangerous job, and there are many accidents that occur every day that could have been avoided with a bit of planning and discussion. When meeting with a roofing team in the field, there are some practices that should be enforced with clients to keep their workers as safe as possible. The following is a quick guide to these steps that will open dialogue as well as promote looking at each job as an individual evolution. They say practice makes perfect, which is true, but repetition can also breed complacency.


Pre-Job Briefing

Be sure to engage in a 5-10 minute discussion with all workers before beginning work on a rooftop. Documenting these meetings helps to keep records of these talks, as well as gives your field supervisors a template to work from when leading these talks. The purpose of the pre-job briefing is to ensure that the person-in-charge and potential workers understand the scope of the work to be performed by discussing the tasks involved. This will provide an understanding of the hazards and related safety, security, and environmental controls, as well as stimulate critical thinking and discussion.


Examine Site Conditions

What does the site look like? Is it wet or windy? Are there power lines, trees, or traffic areas? How is the weather in general? Extremely cold conditions, as well as work in high heat environments, will present their own set of challenges.


Personal Protective Equipment

Wearing the right personal protective equipment is one of the primary ways workers can protect themselves. Hard hats, high-visibility vests, work shoes, long pants, and sleeved shirts are the generally accepted minimum. However, will there be a need for eye, hearing, or respiratory protection?



How will you and your workers get to the work area? Will you use lifts? Will you use temporary or fixed ladders? If temporary ladders will be utilized, have they been inspected, and are they of sufficient height to extend 36” above your landing? Is the ladder at the proper angle and is it secured?



Is the work area laid out in such a way that having cords, lanyards, or ropes underfoot will be reduced? Is material stacked so that clear walking paths are available for workers on the roof?


Consistent Housekeeping

During the process of installing new, or removing existing roofing materials of all types, debris can build up fast. Is there a plan in place to maintain frequent cleanup of work areas to keep slips, trips, and falls to a minimum?


Fall Protection

Every job has its own environment and challenges. Part of every roofing plan must be an assessment of the fall protection means and measures that make the most sense for the job being done.


Hazards on the Roof

Openings, soft spots, and skylights are all examples of hazards that need to be addressed and discussed prior to performing work at height.


The Environment

Look at the materials and work practices themselves that can change the work environment and possibly create new hazards. Is there going to be cutting of tile performed on the roof, will there be water used, will the dust buildup from cutting the tile cause a slippery surface? Where will the waste material go? Will there be nails and shingles, polyurethane, mastic, or hot mop? Each style of roof has its own items that need to be addressed.


Outside Factors

Have we considered homeowners, personnel who are still working during construction, or pedestrians? One of the biggest hazards to pedestrians traveling near a construction zone on foot is the danger of falling debris, such as nails, tools, and construction materials. Having clear signage and delineation is essential to keeping people around the site safe as well.