It is no secret that working at height can be dangerous if safety advice is not followed. Statistics for 2019 have not yet been released by the HSE, however, in 2018, 35 deaths and 5,445 injuries occurred from working at height-related injuries. It is believed that 24% of these statistics are related to work on roofs. With this in mind, this article will give you some guidelines, help and advice for carrying out tasks on roofs.
Training & Competency
Under the working at height regulations of 2005, every person working at height must be competent to do so. Sometimes competency can be difficult to judge, however essentially what this means is the person carrying out the task must be knowledgeable, able to recognise risks and be competent to physically carry out any work at height.
Workers for roof work need training and experience, they simply can’t be left to their own devices in hope that they will pick it up on the job. The Roofing Industry Alliance offers a wide range of competency training and apprenticeships. As always, you should do a risk assessment before any work is undertaken, below is an outline of tips to keep yourself safe.
Roof Edges & Openings
Falling off roofs can happen a number of ways, one of the most common is misplaced footing on the edge of the roof. For sloping roofs, it is recommended to use scaffolding as this will prevent people or materials and tools falling from the edge. Upon flat roofs, a simple guardrail or toeboard will suffice.
Fall Arrest & Harnesses
If you feel like your edge protection is not enough it may be worth taking a look at the use of safety nets or other soft landing systems. Where collective fall protection is not viable personal fall protection must be used. Harnesses should be used where possible however they require a strong anchor point and training to ensure how and when they are safe to use.
Whenever working on a roof you should always take caution and treat every roof as fragile, until a trained and competent person has assessed the surface and has confirmed it is not. If a roof is fragile, look at alternative methods of access, can you work below or under the roof?
When working on roofs with roof lights take extra care, some can be difficult to see and can also be hidden by paint. In the areas of roof lights ensure covers are added and labelled
It goes without saying that working outdoors at height in certain weather conditions is a huge factor that affects safety. Always evaluate the weather conditions before work starts to see if it is safe to continue work.
In summer and high heats ensure you are wearing sun protection and be sure to wrap up warm in the winter in un-restricted moving clothing.
When selecting equipment duration of the task is key. If doing more than just a quick fix or an inspection a scaffold should be used as it gives the user more protection and a stable platform to work from. If the task is a short duration task a roof ladder is perfect for the job, be sure to tie in the ladder if possible and ensure the ridge hook is properly secured.
There are currently no official standards for roof ladders, however, within the coming year, these are being developed. Once released please take a look at this information for the best practice guidelines when using a roof ladder.
In summary, work on roofs can be very dangerous and as suggested by the HSE, if work at height can be avoided, avoid it. If work does need to be completed at height be sure to carry out risk assessments, have the correct edge protection and fall protection and follow all best practice to ensure safe working.