Observing safety measures when working on roofs involves a comprehensive strategy.  Before beginning work on any new job site, employers should be prepared to plan ahead appropriately, provide all appropriate safety equipment, and train workers according to OSHA safety standards. 

In the first part of our roofing safety checklist, we reviewed some OSHA safety standards for working on roofs.  We covered basic roofing safety training requirements, OSHA requirements for fall protection equipment, and OSHA standards for guardrails - often a necessary safety measure when working on roofs

In this article, we will review several other key components to developing a comprehensive and OSHA-compliant roofing safety checklist

Warning Lines Checklist

An OSHA-compliant warning line system consists of chains, ropes, or wires as well as supporting stanchions. A warning line may be used to protect workers on low slope roofs alongside a safety monitoring system, fall protection equipment, or guardrails.  On rooftops that are 50 feet in width or less, a safety monitoring system may be used without other systems. In Canada the laws aren’t as clear for warning line requirements and differ province to province, so we’ll highlight the OSHA standards in this article since they’re often referred to as well. We carry a couple different systems including Perma-Line by Bluewater MFG: Permanent & Temporary Rooftop Warning Line Systems, and Tech-Flags, by W.S. Safety Technologies: Tech-Flags Rooftop Warning Line Systems.

To maintain safety when working on roofs, OSHA requires the following of warning line systems:

  • They can be set up no less than 6 feet from the edge of a roof
  • When mechanical equipment is in use, the minimum distance for setting up the system is 10 feet from the roof edge
  • From a walking/working surface, the system must be set up no less than 34 inches and no more than 39 inches
  • Every 6 feet, the system must be flagged and must be highly visible to workers
  • The system must have a minimum tensile strength of at least 500 pounds
  • The system must be able to withstand at least 16 pounds of force before tipping
  • The line must be able to be pulled without the slack being taken up before stanchions tip over

Covers Checklist

Covers can be used to protect workers from falling through openings on rooftops, including skylights or roof hatches, for example.  Requirements for covers include:

  • Appropriate colour coding or clear marking with the word “COVER” or “HOLE”
  • Secure installation to prevent displacement by wind or being knocked over accidentally
  • Must be able to bear at least twice the weight of an employee or any equipment that could fall on it
  • Again, in Canada, the loadings aren’t as well defined and typically fall under the interpretation by the engineers involved in the project.
  • Further info regarding protecting your skylights can be found at: Skylight Defender Skylight Protection System
  • Further info regarding protecting your roof hatches can be found at: Roof Hatch Guardrail Systems

Ladders Checklist

Stepladders and extension ladders are commonly used on roofing job sites.  As improper use of ladders can pose serious safety risks for working on roofs, the following requirements should be carefully observed:

  • Ladders must be regularly inspected for any damage or deterioration that could impact safe use
  • Workers should be thoroughly trained in ladder safety when working on roofs, and must be able to identify any possible hazards, as well as procedures to follow when a hazard is presented
  • Ladders must be stable and have a secure footing on a level surface
  • All areas at the top and bottom of a ladder must be fully cleared 
  • Use of ladders in high traffic areas (such as doorways or in a driveway) should be avoided unless the area is cordoned off using a barricade and the ladder is secured appropriately
  • Workers must maintain three-point contact with the ladder at all times (i.e. two hands and a foot; two feet and one hand) 
  • Workers must avoid carrying any tools or equipment that could threaten their balance on the ladder
  • Extension ladders must be set at an angle in such a way that the horizontal distance between the supporting top and the ladder bottom is roughly one quarter of the entire working length of the ladder
  • The side rails of an extension ladder must extend at least three feet beyond the top landing surface - if this is not possible, the ladder must be tightly secured at the top, and a rail must be provided for workers to grab as they get on or off the ladder
  • Stepladders must be used only when in the full, open position
  • Workers should not use either the bottom or top step of a stepladder as a step
  • To provide additional support for ladders, some customers utilize a non-penetrating guardrail system to help stabilize the top of the ladder: Rooftop Fall Protection Guardrail Systems

Scaffolding checklist

A good safety checklist for any roofing job site must deal comprehensively with scaffolding requirements. OSHA requires that scaffolding on a job site has been designed by a qualified professional, and that the scaffold is put together and erected in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.  Only workers who are trained and experienced in handling scaffolding should be allowed to move, erect or dismantle it. All workers handling scaffolding should be trained and supervised - and retrained as necessary - by a trained and experienced professional.  OSHA also requires the following:

  • To protect workers on scaffolds from falling objects, employers must barricade the area below the scaffold 
  • Scaffold platforms that are 10 feet or higher from a lower level must incorporate toeboards along the edge that are a minimum of three and a half inches high and have no more than a quarter of an inch clearance above the working surface
  • When platforms are higher than 2 feet from an access point, workers must have safe access using ladders, ramps, walkways or stair towers, or be able to access the platform easily from another surface or platform
  • Scaffolds higher than 10 feet above a lower level must also incorporate appropriate fall protection measures like guardrails
  • When used, guardrails must be installed along all sides of a platform 
  • Depending on the type of scaffold, toprails must be installed between 36-45 inches above the surface of a platform and must be able to withstand between 100 and 200 pounds of force at any given point
  • Scaffold platforms must be planked fully between the guardrails and front uprights
  • Space between adjacent platforms must be no greater than one inch (with some exceptions, if a wider space is demonstrably necessary)

Emergency plan checklist

All workers must have appropriate roofing safety training and be able to implement an emergency plan on any given job site. In Ontario working at heights training is necessary for any rooftop or elevated work. The emergency plan must include the appropriate procedure for reporting a situation and evacuating the area if necessary.  While it may sound simple, it is critical for each worker to know the address and general location of the job site in case they are called upon to report an emergency. This information, as well as emergency contact information, should be posted in a highly visible place on the job site that can be accessed easily when needed. 

  • Basic first aid equipment must be available as well as equipment to flush out eyes or skin in case of any contact with a corrosive substance
  • If medical assistance is not available within a reasonable distance, a qualified individual must be available on site to provide first aid assistance when necessary
  • Employers must also preventively plan against heat stroke and other heat-related problems, as well as threats posed by very cold temperatures and other inclement weather
  • A safe wind speed for working on roofs depends somewhat on the appropriate use of safety equipment and other conditions; employers must be prepared to protect workers in the case of excessive wind or other inclement conditions that could threaten safety

It is the responsibility of workers and employers alike to ensure that safety measures when working on roofs are observed appropriately.  Workers have the legal right to a safe working environment, and can report any abuse or ignorance of safety measures directly to OSHA. Employers who do not observe OSHA safety regulations can face serious penalties - not to mention the tragedy of avoidable injuries and deaths as a result of falls from heights. It is important to take the time to ensure that a workplace is safe for everyone.