Roofing work in considered high-risk if there is a risk of a person falling more than 2 meters (or 3 meters in SA).
A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) that outlines all risks and control measures must be prepared prior to commencing work. It is also important that all relevant workers are involved in the development of the SWMS.
The overall aim being to eliminate or minimize risks to worker health and safety as far as it is reasonably practicable.
Here are just some of the risks faces by workers, along with the hazards which can lead to such risks and their possible control measures.
Falls from Height
Falls from height are a major risk to roofers, and a leading cause of death and injury among those working on roofs. Falls typically involve uncontrolled hazards like:
- Unprotected edges
- Weather conditions (wind and rain)
- Trip hazards
All of these hazards pose significant threat to workers, but can be controlled with measures such as:
- Avoiding or reducing time spent working at heights
- Use of fall prevention devices (such as scaffolding, guard rails, Elevated Working Platforms)
- Use of work positioning systems (travel restraints)
- Use of fall arrest systems (harnesses, anchor points)
Roof Access and Fragile Roofs
Correct and safe roof access can also reduce the risk of falling.
By using scaffolding, stair towers, secured ladders, or roof hatches, workers can access and exit the roof safely.
All roofs should be treated as fragile until confirmed otherwise by a competent person. If a roof is fragile, protection for workers must be provided to best prevent falling through the roof.
Things like Elevated Working Platforms (EWPs), walkways, or crawl boards ensure that work done on top of a fragile roof is completes safely.
Falling objects pose a danger to other workers and the general public. Some examples of hazards that could lead to falling objects include:
- A gap in the safety mesh which allows materials to fall through
- A gap between the top of the roof cladding and the bottom of a toe-board or infill panel
- Working from elevated structures like EWPs, ladders, and scaffolding.
Controls to reduce such risks include:
- Safe methods for raising and lowering materials
- Secure physical barriers
- Keeping tools on lanyards
- Overhead protection / protected walkways / Exclusion zones
Heat and UV related Risks
Working on roofs, particularly during hot seasons in Australia can cause heat related illness and dehydration. Exposure to the elements when working outside and exposure to high temperatures when working in confined spaces are both likely causes of heat related illnesses.
To reduce exposure to heat and UV related risks, the following control measures can be implemented:
- Mechanical aids to reduce physical exertion
- Mechanical fans
- Scheduling work during cooler parts of the day
- Reduced time spent working in heat
- Rest breaks in a shaded / cool areas
- Readily accessible drinking water
- Lightweight clothing
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, shade)
Along with SWMS and High-Risk Work Licenses, other ways of ensuring that workers have adequate understanding of safety on the worksite include:
- Toolbox talks, to help identify and mitigate any safety issues
- Safety checklists
- Safety notices
Maintaining a safe work environment is important, particularly in the high-risk work environment faced by roofers.
It is important that every hazard is met with elimination or at the minimum, a control measure to mitigate any potential risk.