Roof Safety: What Your Contractor Does and Doesn’t Do

June 29, 2018

Before the ink is dry on the agreement, you want to know that the roofing contractor performing work on your site is safe. You should know what things are your responsibility and what are theirs. A clear set of expectations make for a smoother – and safer – project after all.

What Your Contractor Will Do

Professional roofing contractors always adhere to OSHA and customer jobsite safety requirements; that’s a given. They also train their crews, provide proper safety equipment, and erect temporary fall protection to prevent falls from unprotected sides/edges and holes (including skylights) at six feet above lower levels. Here’s a few other things they do that you might not be aware of.

Preliminary fall protection planning

Prior to the project starting, the roofing contractor will use the roof survey and scope of work to evaluate fall hazards and develop a fall protection plan. The plan includes a list of fall protection systems and equipment that will be deployed to mitigate identified risks. Procedures to be used on the project are also explained, including a detailed list of steps for the safety set-up (e.g. The roof area will be accessed by extension ladder; the first man up will establish a single point anchor for restraint to receive the rest of the safety cable and flag stands for horizontal lifeline fall restraint).

Comprehensive job hazard analysis

Before the crew begins any work, the jobsite supervisor and crew members evaluate the roof top and bottom. While the fall protection plan has already outlined safety set-up, a fresh set of eyes looking at the project, scope, and site may see something new that requires amending the plan. The job hazard analysis is reviewed with the Safety Manager and/or the Project Manager and then approval is given to begin setting the safety equipment up on the roof.

Start work authorization

This is an audit process to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations, customer safety site requirements, and the mandated procedures and equipment outlined in the fall protection plan and job hazard analysis. Project managers, supervisors, and/or members on the safety team (all of whom have been trained as competent persons) can provide this authorization and documentation goes into the job file.

Site audits

It’s not enough to start the project safely; that same level of vigilance has to be practiced every day. To make sure it is, Project Managers and safety team members often perform site audits (either scheduled or as a surprise) to observe the safety set-up, check the working order of equipment, ensure PPE is used properly, etc.

What Your Contractor Won’t Do

Professional roofing contractors never put their employees or your workers at risk. They never work without fall protection and proper personal protective equipment. They also don’t do the following.

Disconnect high voltage or other electrical hazards

These are typically identified pre-bid, but definitely during the pre-construction meeting. If an overhead power line is within 10 feet of the project, the roofing crew will not risk electrocution; work can be performed on a weekend when power to the facility can shut it down. A licensed electrician will need to perform any necessary electrical work to make the project safe. This includes when the facility supplies power to the roofing contractor’s power box.

Diverting site traffic

Do not expect your roofing contractor to create a plan to reroute truck or train traffic. They do not know your business or the timing of freight the way a facilities professional does. Once a plan is drafted, the contractor may assist with establishing cones and barriers, but you need to dictate what will create the best flow possible.

Removal of hazardous materials

Roof contractors are not trained and equipped to also perform asbestos abatement. While the presence of asbestos is typically known before the start of the project, when it’s not, if suspected material is discovered, work will stop. The building owner or facility professional will need to coordinate testing and removal.

HVAC and piping work

Your roofing contractor can coordinate with subcontractors, but will not perform work on rooftop HVAC equipment, including its removal or replacement. With careful scheduling, the contractor can install curbs or make repairs to the roof before, during, or after new equipment is located on the roof. If ammonia or refrigerant pipe lines need to be moved or removed, an expert will be subcontracted to ensure it’s done safely.

Work with a Professional Commercial Roofing Contractor

Don’t leave it up to chance. Start the conversation early about how the project can be executed to address the risk of falls or other injuries. When you discuss expectations upfront, hazards can be mitigated and the contractor can complete the project with zero reportable incidents.