Roof Safety

Most work conducted on a roof, no matter the size, is considered ‘high risk’. Roof work becomes high risk when:

  • There is risk of a worker falling over 2m (as per height safety WHS regulations)

  • There is an element of demolition that will impact any load-bearing structures of the roof, or will impact the structural integrity

  • Work involves, or will possibly involve, the disturbance of asbestos (for more information on asbestos safety, contact your local ATOM Safety representative)

  • Work is to be carried out on or near live electrical installations or services

  • As per height safety WHS regulations, hazards must be eliminated or mitigated wherever reasonably practical.

Working on a roof offers additional hazards caused by the nature of the job, including weather conditions, fragile or sloping surfaces and steep pitches. Below are guidelines you should also stick to when working on roofs.

Fragile Surfaces

All roofs should be treated as fragile until a competent person deems them not to be. No sheeted roof should be trusted to bear a person’s body weight. Some roofing materials are more likely to be fragile than others, so always lean on the side of caution when confronted with the following roof materials:

  • Asbestos roof sheets (contact your local ATOM Safety representative for more information on asbestos safety)

  • Polycarbonate, commonly used in skylights

  • Fibre cement sheets

  • Corroded metal sheets or fasteners

  • Glass

  • Chipboard or rotted wood material

  • Slabs, slates of tiles

Fragile materials such as these increase the risk of falling through a roof as opposed to off it. When materials like the above are identified, control measures should always be put into place. Possible controls include using elevated work platforms to remove the need to stand on the roof itself, walkways or crawl boards, using barriers to identify safe areas, clearly signposting dangerous areas, and utilising safety netting or a fall arrest harness system.

Sloping Surfaces & Steep Pitches

If a roof slope is over 35 degrees, it is not appropriate to stand or work on, as it increases the likelihood of a slip occurring. Fall prevention controls such as guard rails or catch platforms are not an appropriate measure to protect workers. If an area with a slope over 35 degrees needs to be accessed, utilise one of the following:

  • Aerial equipment, such as a cherry picker

  • Travel restraint or industrial rope access system

  • Scaffolding platforms

Weather Conditions

The weather will determine when you are able to work on a roof. Severe heat, strong winds or rain can significantly increase risk to the safety and wellbeing of workers. It is important to always take this into account when conducting roof work.

Severe heat can cause heat related illness, dehydration and sunburn. Not only does the heat come directly from the sun, but it also radiates off the surrounding environment which increases the temperature even more. With this heat comes UV radiation that can cause burns to unprotected skin. Minimise the effects of the sun by:

  • Ensuring that roof work is only conducted on mild days, and/or during the cooler times of the day

  • Reducing the amount of time each worker spends on the roof per shift

  • Ensuring that adequate drinking water and electrolytes are readily available

  • Workers skin is protected by light weight clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Skin that isn’t protected should be covered with 30+SPF or higher sunscreen

  • If possible, shade the work and break area to minimise time spent in the sun

Rain makes an already sloping surface even more slippery, greatly increasing the chance of a slip or fall. Never work on a roof if it is raining, or if the roof surface is still wet from earlier rain.

Strong winds will make it difficult to balance on a roof surface. It is very possible for a strong wind to blow a worker over the edge, causing severe injury. Make sure that roof work is only conducted on still days.

Oops, You Have Had a Fall

We all hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does you need to be prepared. All those at your worksite should be trained in how to act in the event of a fall. This includes relevant first aid and how to safely conduct a rescue. If your worksite utilises fall arrest systems, it is possible a worker involved in a fall will suffer from Suspension Trauma. This occurs when a person is suspended in a harness in an upright position, resulting in blood pooling in the legs. Depending on the person’s susceptibility, this can lead to unconsciousness, renal failure and, in rare circumstances, death.

Always make sure that the fallen worker is rescued without delay. To assist in this, there are pre-rigged retrieval systems on the market.

ATOM Safety are here to help you implement a prompt rescue plan. Reach out to your local ATOM Safety representative to get started.

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