Working at height – The dangers of working on commercial roofs

Did you know that working at heights is one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries each year?

The likelihood of someone falling off ladders or walking over unsafe roofing surfaces is highly probably without the correct visual inspections and safety equipment. You will often not know the full extent of any damage until the roof is fully inspected.

Here at Industrial Roofing Scotland we check 100s of roofs each year. Our customers often ask us about the dangers of working at heights on commercial roofs. In terms of health and safety, there are so many risks to consider when working at heights. Our advice is to always hire a professional roofing contractor to visit your premises and check your roof for you, simply because there are so many risks regarding working at heights.

In this article we will look at the dangers of working on a roof, things you need to consider when employing someone to look at your roof, and the law.

What are the dangers of working on a commercial roof?

Risk factor

Let’s face it, the dangers of working on a roof can be deadly. One in five deaths within the construction industry involve some aspect of working on a roof.

As I’ve mentioned, the state of your roof comes with some element of uncertainty, the real damage can only be assessed when someone actually inspects your roof. Once assessed, any professional should come with the right tools and equipment to ensure that health and safety standards are adhered to at all times.

As a business owner, you do not want any liability or accidents happening and the best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to get a professional roofing expert to do the work for you. You should also remember that working on a roof is controlled by the elements – the weather. You certainly wouldn’t want to go on a roof when its raining, windy or snowing.

In short – the risks are highly variable, and potentially fatal.

Roof edges and openings

One of the main causes of death and injury is falling off the edge of the roof and through rooflights. Sadly, many deaths occur each year involving smaller builders working on domestic roofs.

You should also take into account that slopping roofs require scaffolding to prevent slips and falls from the edge. Professionals can also fit edge protection to the eaves of any roof to protect themselves from accidents. Proper ladders should also be used and secured correctly to prevent falls. Watch out for unstable walls and do not lean your ladders on a fragile surface.

As far as health and safety is concerned, there are no excuses for not having the correct and suitable equipment, and you should always ensure that the contractor you hire takes roofing health and safety seriously.

Fragile roofs and rooflights

Every roofing situation is different and should be treated with care and a fresh outlook. There is so much uncertainty when it comes to working on roofs and you can never be too careful.

Fragile roofs are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. It can be difficult to spot the dangers in certain light conditions and fragile areas may be hidden by paint.

Don’t forget that the weight of a person has to be supported by the roof and therefore scaffolding, guards and appropriate safety equipment must be in place to ensure safety at all times.

If there is any doubt, leave your roof to someone with professional training and expertise.

Equipment and people

The main purpose of health and safety law is to put procedures in place to ensure the prevention of injury. Equipment and people can create unpredictable variables, and it’s extremely important that staff receive the correct training, information, equipment and supervision.

Shoddy equipment is a risk in itself and therefore we advise that all equipment is checked, assessed and is of the standards required to prevent the risk of injury so far as reasonable practicable.

What does the law say?

The law states that before you carry out any roofing work, you must plan what you are doing in advance, so it’s done safely.

It’s your job to check that your contractor is trained, competent and has proper health and safety procedures in place. Method statements are a common way to help manage work on roofs and communicate the precautions to those involved.

Risk assessments are necessary and any professional roofing contractor should assess the risks, decide on what precautions are required, record the findings and review the assessment.

Precaution is a key aspect in the law of working on a roof. The objective is to make sure work at heights is well thought out, supervised and done so in a safe way to prevent injury and death.

In short, a significant amount of paper work must be completed to ensure that work takes place within the law to protect both the contractor, the owner of the building, and anyone else involved in the project and that happens to be in and around the area where work is taking place.

Related content:

How to safely access your roof

Accessing any commercial roof requires detailed visual inspection and careful planning. The following list is an example of the type of equipment that should be considered to ensure safe working practices:

  • Scaffolding
  • Stair towers
  • Fixed or mobile scaffold towers
  • Mobile access equipment
  • Ladders
  • Roof access hatches

Your turn

I hope you have found this article helpful and that you understand the dangers of working at heights on a commercial roof.

When you are choosing a commercial roofing contractor please make sure you hire a contractor that puts health and safety at the top of their priority list. There cannot be shortcuts with health and safety, especially with roofing.

Here at Industrial Roofing Scotland we have been awarded a top safety accreditation from Safecontractor, which you can read all about here.

  1. What are you currently doing to ensure your team are protected whilst working at heights?
  2. When was the last time you checked that you’re contractor is following a comprehensive health and safety policy?

Let me know what’s on your mind by joining in the conversation in the comments section below.

You can also contact me directly on 01592 372573 with any thoughts, concerns or questions.

Have a great day!

Jamie