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Climbing to Safety: Making Rooftops Safe to Navigate

Stepping foot on a commercial roof can certainly seem a little terrifying. You surrender the small amount of control you have when two feet are firmly planted on the ground. Plus there’s the whole thing about being 20 or 30 feet in the air…maybe 50 or 60 feet if you’re unlucky. There are certain options that can be implemented to help create safer environments while on the roof.

You might be asking why you would need to proactively install safety features for anyone accessing the roof. Just don’t go near the edge, right? Well, yes. But no. While anyone stepping foot on the roof should be generally aware of the hazards associated with being up on a flat roof, there are a variety of scenarios that could happen, or could have already happened, while someone is up there.

Rooftop safety

Weather can play a huge factor on rooftop conditions. High winds, rain, morning frost (especially on white roofs), snow and ice can all create issues anyone on the roof will need to work in. Perimeter edges can blend in where the roof levels change creating a fall hazard. Working in an area that is near an edge while the surface is slippery or during high winds can turn a simple loss of balance into a life or death situation. The same can happen at ladder access points, hatch openings and skylights can also prove to be dangerous if a slip and fall occurs.

So, what do you do to help eliminate or at least minimize these conditions? Here is a short list of some available options for each of the 3 main fall hazards while on a roof.

Skylights

  • Replace older skylight units with new units that meet OSHA fall protection regulations. Models such as the WASCO Senitinel Series are built to meet or exceed these regulations. This is a simple remove and replace procedure but may require additional safety measures to be implemented while the skylight domes are removed.
  • Install a skylight safety cage over an existing skylight to provide fall protection.
  • A skylight safety rail can be mounted to the skylight curb to create a protective barrier around the skylight.
Rooftop safety

Roof Hatch

  • A safety post such as the LadderUP® Safety Post from Bilco can be mounted inside the roof hatch to provide a support for exiting and entering the roof hatch.
  • Roof hatch guard rail systems are installed around the roof hatch curb and close-in the hatch opening. Access is allowed through a spring-loaded gate which helps to reduce the likelihood of falling through an open hatch. Similar models can also be installed at fixed ladder locations.
Rooftop safety
Bilco BIL-Guard®2.0

Perimeter Edges

  • Warning lines can be erected along perimeter edges and are very inexpensive to put in place. These can become a maintenance item as the flags and line typically deteriorate over time from the elements. They are only a warning system though and do not protect against falls.
  • Weighted rail systems utilize weighted bases and can be moved if required but do offer protection against falls unlike warning lines.
  • Mounted rail systems are a permanent solution for perimeter fall protection. They can be mounted directly to the roof deck or installed under metal edges or copings at the perimeter. The deck mounted options require surgical removal of the roof system and need to be flashed into the roof after installation. The non-penetrating option is installed under the metal flashing and don’t require additional flashings.
Rooftop safety

As you can see, there are quite a few options to make your rooftop a safer place to work.

There are many options available and some companies like Leading Edge Safety will even create custom applications to fit your specific needs. It doesn’t take much to put some of these measures in place and most can be installed by a quality roofing contractor.

Feel free to give me a call if you think the people working on your roof could benefit from some of these safety measures. I’d be happy to discuss these options and more.

Interested in rooftop safety equipment? Contact us today!

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Request rooftop safety equipment

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Founded in 1974, Jurin Roofing Services, Inc. is known for top quality roofing throughout the east coast. Jurin Roofing Services is a full-service commercial roofing contractor offering roof maintenance, roof and leak repair, and roof replacements. Jurin Roofing Services also offers professional roof services such as roof inspections and infrared roof moisture scans. Jurin Roofing is also a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and is a Carlisle SynTec Hall of Fame and ESP (Excellence in Singly Ply) contractor.
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About the Author:

Mike Shultz
Mike works with our new and existing clients to solve the problems created by their existing roofing systems. While an aging roof system may be ready for replacement, a new roof will not always eliminate the existing problems. Mike’s goal is to identify and remove the issues most contractors overlook. A quality contractor is the one that will take the time to learn what the needs of the building owner are, identify the needs of the building itself and assemble a solution that best accommodates these needs.

3 Comments

  1. Matt November 18, 2016 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Great advice! I am training some new roofers on my crew, and we have all been a little jumpy from time to time. I have been a roofing contractor for years, and I still sometimes do not like to look down. Great article!

  2. Bill White November 28, 2016 at 1:18 am - Reply

    These are all great tips. Taking as many precautions as possible is always at the top of my list when it comes to the safety of my crew.

  3. Aaron December 11, 2016 at 12:53 am - Reply

    Great article. We are training some new crews right now as we had a pretty big year this year. I have been a roofing contractor in charlotte nc area for years now, and have owned a roofing company in charlotte for quite some time, and we always try and stay safe up there. Great tips. I will share with them this on Monday. Thanks!

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