Safety Corner: Weathering the Heights

A Comprehensive Guide to Safe Roofing in Every Season

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.)


In an age defined by shifting climate patterns, the need to adapt and perfect our roofing techniques has never been more critical. It’s no longer enough to complete the job; now, we must accomplish it with safety, efficiency, and harmony with nature’s unpredictable whims. Join us as we embark on an in-depth exploration of the art of adapting our roofing practices to cater to diverse roofing styles, varying weather conditions, and indispensable safety measures.

Roofing, akin to an art form, offers a rich tapestry of styles and materials, each with its distinctive attributes. Let’s unravel the intricacies of these roofing materials and understand how they interact with the elements.

Asphalt shingles are a widely used roofing material that has its quirks. They thrive in the sun but have their limits. Extreme cold renders them brittle, while scorching heat makes them pliable. Adapting installation techniques to suit temperature variations is key to ensuring the resilience of asphalt shingles.

Resilient and visually striking, metal roofing stands as the superhero among roofing materials. It performs exceptionally well in diverse climates, but it comes with a caveat, it becomes as slippery as an ice rink when wet. Extra precautions are essential to maintain safety.

Commonly found on commercial buildings, flat roofs prioritize efficient drainage to prevent water or snow from pooling atop them. Thoughtful design and diligent maintenance are critical for their functionality.

Slate and tile roofs embody elegance and durability. However, their substantial weight demands a robust underlying structure. While they can withstand many storms, extreme weather events can still pose a threat, making regular inspections and maintenance imperative. Understanding these materials goes beyond aesthetics, it’s about safety and the lasting integrity of the structures we create.

Having delved into the intricacies of roofing materials, let’s shift our focus to the paramount aspect of ensuring the safety of roofing professionals. Here are indispensable practices to establish a secure working environment.

Before ascending that ladder, devote a moment to stretching and warming up. Incorporating a warm-up routine is not merely beneficial, it is a necessity to keep muscles agile and injuries at bay. Flexibility is the foundation of a safe workspace. Stretching is not a luxury, it’s a lifeline in the world of roofing.

Roofing presents an array of slip, trip, and fall hazards. From moss-covered tiles to wet metal surfaces, each step can be treacherous. Implement a rigorous fall protection protocol, including harnesses, guardrails, and safety nets. Regular inspection and maintenance of roofing surfaces are also indispensable to mitigate these risks.

Rest and hydration are your trusted allies. Fatigue and dehydration are formidable adversaries, especially when working at heights. Prioritize ample rest, maintain proper hydration, and schedule regular breaks to stay alert and perform at your best. A well-rested and hydrated team is a safer team.

As temperatures plummet, roofing materials undergo transformations. Asphalt shingles become more brittle, rendering them susceptible to damage during installation. Metal surfaces can ice over, creating a perilous slipping hazard. Adequate insulation and protection against the cold are essential. Additionally, consider using cold-weather adhesives and equipment designed for sub-zero conditions.

Your materials won’t transport themselves to the job site. Therefore, safe driving practices are non-negotiable. Ensure your vehicle is in impeccable condition, secure your load meticulously, and adapt your driving to accommodate prevailing weather conditions. Safety commences on the road.

When winter arrives, preparedness becomes paramount. Equip yourself with layers of clothing, invest in insulated gear, and establish heated break areas for your team. Vigilance is crucial to fend off frostbite, hypothermia, and other cold-related ailments. Winter doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge.

In our roles as roofing professionals, adapting to change is not merely about keeping pace; it’s about setting the standard for safety and efficiency. Understanding the nuances of various roofing materials, implementing safe work practices, and preparing for unpredictable weather are all integral facets of our craft. Let us warmly welcome these changes, prioritize safety, and ensure that roofs remain resolute over our heads for generations to come. Here’s to skies that favor safety and roofs that stand unwavering in every season.