5 Common Rooftop Safety Hazards


While working on rooftops safety is a priority! With advancements in infrastructure and the need for businesses to evolve their physical space, flat roofs across the country are becoming crowded. These rooftop units (RTUs) and the crowding that occurs are a cause for concern. Today’s rooftops are presenting various potential hazards. This article will take you through the 5 most common hazards we encounter regularly.

Roof Edge Awareness

Whether you have all the time in the world to finish the project at hand, or just a few minutes before closing time to get home, there is always a risk we lose track of where we are on the roof. Roof edge awareness is ensuring that you are aware of how close you are to the edge of the roof at all times. At any point in time, if you need to travel close to the roof’s edge to get to an area of the roof, or conduct service/work while remaining close to the edge of a roof, a permanent safety solution like a roof barrier may be required. You also have the option of setting up a warning line system to help roof workers to quickly identify a hazard, whether that hazard is the edge of the roof or a skylight.

Weather and Visibility Concerns

Always keep a look out for changes in weather that can reduce visibility while on the roof. Rooftop surfaces like TPO membranes can become very slippery when wet, at the same token they can also blind you while working on a sunny summer day. Depending where you are located in the country you might also be subject to high amounts of snow, keep in mind that snow can easily cover access points and hazards, like skylights, overnight. Ensure you always have safe passage, regardless of the weather, to and from your rooftop access points.

Skylights, Hatches, and Other RTUS

As a safety precaution, you should always take the time to review the roof plan prior to stepping onto the roof. On the roof plan you will find the location of various rooftop units you are possibly looking to service that are close to the edge, along with vents, ducts, gas lines and more. Knowing this in advance will help ensure you take the safest path to your destination on the roof, while being aware of where the roof guardrail systems are located. In the event you are required to work close to the edge of the roof you will at least know if it is a safe environment.

Often, a roof safety hazard is only brought to the attention of a building owner once a contractor or service provider visits the roof to service an RTU, like a HVAC system. At which point it becomes an urgent request so that maintenance can continue, as work may be temporarily suspended until a roof guardrail is installed.

Roof Access Ladder Placement

There is a perception that many rooftop fall accidents and injuries occur on the roof itself, but the reality is that these accidents often occur when attempting to access the roof. With that comes training, employees who require routine access to the rooftop should undergo training to safely ascend and descend.

Before using a fixed hatch or roof access ladder, it is important to check the integrity of the ladder and ensure it’s safe to climb. No matter if it is the first time and only time you require to access the ladder or it’s a daily routine for you, reviewing points of failure is about putting safety top of mind. A fixed access ladder should have its feet secured to the wall and possibly the ground, with the top of the ladder being secured to the roof. Annual fixed access ladder inspections should be well documented and help to ensure your fixed access ladder is always safe.

Roof Stability and Structure

You may be working on the roof due to its degrading structure, working towards improving its stability and integrity. Assuming you have assessed the roof structure and are standing on a compliant and safe roof. One thing to note, and especially applicable to older structures, it is important to assess the roof and understand its load ratings and structure. Doing so will help you better understand what can and cannot be installed as a safety solution to the roof. Some solutions can be manufactured in steel, adding a lot of weight to certain parts of the roof, while also requiring a secure location to fix the solution. We have encountered many projects where the structure of the building yields an aluminum lightweight non-penetrating modular roof guardrail, like our Roofbarrier solutions.

How about changes in elevation on the roof? Portions of the rooftop may be higher and/or lower than the roof access point. Such drops in roof elevation can also include narrow walkways, making it that you are always walking or working near a fall hazard. These environments will need careful consideration as there are a mixture of crossover ladders, access ladders, walkways and guardrails that may need to be considered when creating a safe working environment.

Don’t discover safety by accident! Reach out to our rooftop safety specialists to learn how you can create a safe and compliant rooftop environment.

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