Many times when a homeowner is spending the weekend cleaning gutters or taking the time to do a recommended quarterly roof inspection, safety is the last thing on his or her mind. In fact, our homeowner is far more likely to be thinking about how long the job is going to take, or preoccupied with the many other issues we all deal with.
A little preparation can go a long way in making a climb to the roof a safe one.
1. Checking the weather before getting started
The task at hand could be going along smoothly when suddenly a rain storm or strong wind pops up, leaving our homeowner attempting to get down from a roof that is wet and slippery, or attempting to walk towards the ladder in strong winds. These days a weather report is a close as our smart phones. And be sure to keep an eye on the sky.
2. Using proper ladder safety procedures
Each year, hundreds of thousands of individuals fall from ladders around the world. (In 2013, more than 550,000 accidental falls around the world resulted in death.) Using proper ladder safety procedures is absolutely essential for roof safety. The correct ladder to use when inspecting a roof is an extension ladder. This type of ladder is a non-self supporting ladder that must be placed against a stable, sturdy structure in order to be safely secured.
It’s important that the ladder is never extended more than 3 feet above the roof, and the user should keep his or her waist below the roof line. Stepping on the top 3 rungs of the ladder should be avoided, and the owner should maintain a 3 point connection with the ladder: only one hand or foot is removed from the ladder at a time. Before using any ladder, a quick inspection should be performed to confirm that there are no weak spots due to age, rust, wear, etc.
3. Assembling the proper safety gear
Just like any worker entering a construction site, homeowners should don appropriate safety gear when working on or near a roof:
- Boots or shoes with excellent tread will help minimize the risk of slips and slides.
- A hardhat can help protect the head in the event of a slip or fall from the roof.
- Goggles will protect the eyes from flying debris, or in the event of a slip or fall.
- A safety harness will ensure that if the user slips, he or she will be secured by the harness and will not fall from the roof.
- A tool belt helps keep the homeowner’s hands free, so they can maintain stability on the ladder or roof.
4. Never working on a roof or ladder alone
Homeowners should never perform work that requires them to be on a ladder or on the roof when they are alone. Someone should always be present, so that they can get help immediately in the event of an accident. If a homeowner is alone and slips, it could be hours before anyone discovers that they are injured.
5. Homeowners with limitations or disabilities
Owners with certain physical limitations or disabilities should never perform work that requires them to be on a ladder or the roof. Physical limitations prevent the homeowner from being able to adhere to proper safety procedures and guidelines. This includes individuals suffering from conditions which could cause dizziness, fainting, severe pain, confusion, etc. For instance, a strong and otherwise healthy man suffering from diabetes could suddenly have a drop in sugar which causes him to black out and fall from the roof. Homeowners with any sort of limitation or disability that could impact their safety should seek the help of a roofing professional.
6. Looking for power lines
Working near power lines can be extremely dangerous. Electricity can easily arc to a metal item the homeowner is carrying or climbing on. If they must work near power lines, the first aspect of safety involves the ladder material: utilize a fiberglass or wooden ladder and never a metal ladder. All metal jewelry or items should be removed from the homeowner and placed a safe distance away. People should never touch a power line with their bare hand or any sort of tool, even if they are wearing gloves or protective hand gear.
7. Maintaining a well-organized work space
Whether the homeowner is inspecting shingles or checking the flashings on his or her roof, maintaining a well-organized workspace can ensure that no trips or slips occur due to clutter or distraction. Individuals should avoid placing materials, power tools, trash or any other type of debris in their path. Items should be kept nearby the project area, but not within the project area.
8. Making multiple trips to avoid carrying too much
Although it’s tempting to grab everything that will fit into two arms before ascending a ladder to minimize the number of trips up and down, it’s simply not safe. Larger materials should never be placed on the roof.
9. Resisting the urge to look around
While the homeowner is on the roof or ladder, it is absolutely essential that they keep their focus on what they’re doing. Individuals should keep eyes on the roof at all times, focused in on the areas where they will be walking or performing the work.
10. Hiring a professional
If the idea of working on the roof or using a ladder fills a homeowner with anxiety, then it’s time to call in a professional to do the work. For small jobs like quick inspections, a tile or shingle repair, and gutter/debris cleaning, a roofing professional can be surprisingly affordable.