It may seem rather obvious to say that working on a roof is dangerous – that much is obvious to anyone, construction worker or not. But there are so many other risks involved which make the height so much more dangerous and providing working at height training is an essential part of the duty of care an employer must show to all staff who will be asked to work on a roof, even if this is for a short while and only now and again.
One in five construction deaths involve a fall from a roof and often, sadly, some basic precautions could have made the job totally safe.
Use proper equipment
Sometimes it seems to be rather over-the-top to put up a scaffolding tower for one small job on a roof but an assessment is essential and it will almost always result in a decision to use one for safety reasons. If your job will involve moving from one area to another because jobs are out of easy reach of one another it is absolutely essential to use a tower or other equipment, for example some sort of mobile lifting equipment.
Some roofs even have access through the building and of course this is best of all, as long as proper harnessing is used. The key to all hazardous jobs is to make sure that a proper method statement is available for everyone to use; working at height is not the time to be taking any kind of risk.
Assess the actual roof
About all that different roofs have in common is that they are above the ground – after that the variations are almost endless, even in roofs of houses in a row. Tiles can be in various states of repair, guttering and coping can be different or badly maintained and flat roofs may include weak spots. An assessment of the working area is essential and if any part of the roof appears to be unsafe, a complete check must be made before relying on any of it to support the weight of a person.
Working at height training ensures that all employees who may have to work on a roof will have proper skills to help them make safety assessments. These must be re-done on every occasion as the condition of the roof may be impacted by the most recent work done, as well as normal wear and tear.
Safe working practices
There are many cases resulting in injury in which the fault lies with bad working practice. There are several hard and fast rules when working at a height but the most important is that everyone should work within easy reach. Leaning over unbalances even the best positioned ladder and even if a tower is used, leaning over can result in falls.
A harness is essential when working on a tower in any event and these should be carefully checked before use. Although it may seem like pointlessly hard work to keep going up and down a ladder and moving it along, it pays off with added safety.
Author: Rebecca Fearn, who often writes for Boss Training.