Low-Slope (Flat) Roofing Safety


According to the Construction Safety Association of Ontario, one-quarter of all flat roofing injuries to workers result from falls. Ladders are involved in 35% of these incidents, and the flat roof work surface is next at 30%. These statistics are even more alarming when compared to the incident rates of the entire construction industry. Flat roofing falls account for 24%, almost double the 13% of the entire industry!

The flat roof work surface is where most flat roofing injuries occur and follow a familiar pattern. The most common activities involving injuries in this working environment are carrying, removing, applying and lifting. Burns and temperature related injuries accounted for 22% of all incidents, this compares to 1% for the entire construction sector. These figures also do not show the ancillary damage and injury that results from these incidents to property and bystanders such as the general public.

Most accidents can be avoided through good organization and application of the basic Law of Self-Preservation ("Common Sense"). Two-thirds of roofing injuries are related to materials handling and poor housekeeping. A dramatic reduction in incidents can be achieved by reducing the amount of "double handling" that occurs and by employing mechanization and automation wherever possible.

Housekeeping is much more than picking up rubbish and clearing trip hazards. For the Professional Roofer, it includes proper planning, set-up, access, storage and disposal. Proper planning should include assessing the jobsite, identifying site hazards and restrictions and allowing adequate clean-up time. These are all items that should be incorporated into a competent bidding practice.

Also many seemingly basic steps such as First Aid training and emergency procedures, weather monitoring, fueling and material storage locations all serve in the event of an incident to reduce reaction time and the level of threat to personnel and property.

Burning and scalding are so predominate in the roofing sector that attention to the causes and avoidance should be closely examined. Site staff should enforce the use of adequate protective clothing, such as long sleeves, eye protection and quality gloves. Associated with this is care and maintenance of handling equipment and preparation equipment. Damaged containers, clogged supply piping and dirty kettles all represent potential injury points. Good maintenance and replacement of faulty or damaged components is recognized practice to any contractor to care for their investment. Likewise the use of new and established technologies that reduce injury hazards such a jacketed kettles may also reduce insurance premiums.

Ultimately accident prevention requires an investment in time. Too often we all get focused on the end goal and we don't take the time to examine all the steps in reaching that goal. Haste may not make waste, but it will result in injury.

Source: Garlock Equipment Company, Jim Sidla

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