For many of our restoration contractor clients, it is necessary to work on roofs during the winter months. This can be treacherous and hazardous work, which is why we recommend following these safety tips to avoid harm or injury.
Planning and Preparation
When it becomes necessary to work on a roof in the winter months, you should ask yourself the following questions to ensure you are prepared:
What special tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing, and footwear will be needed? Make sure all the necessary gear is on hand and ready for use.
Do you have a means of safely elevating mechanized snow removal equipment to the roof?
What type of fall protection will you need? On sloped roofs, you may need a personal fall-arrest system for each worker; on flat roofs, you'll probably need a warning line or safety monitor system.
Are there special hazards on the roof that will be hidden from view by the snow? You may need to mark any skylights, vents, or other hazards or obstructions so that workers will be able to see and avoid them.
How will workers get on the roof?
If access is from the interior, such as through a penthouse door or hatch, make there isn't too much snow buildup to make passage impossible.
If access is from a fixed ladder on the building exterior, recent snow and ice may have built up on ladder rungs, creating a serious fall hazard. The first person up the ladder should observe the rung conditions, clear off snow, and use a hammer to knock any ice off the rungs.
If access is from portable ladders, they should be set on stable footing, at the proper angle to the building (the horizontal distance between the base of the ladder and the building should equal one-quarter of the vertical height of the ladder).
A hoist rope should be used to raise tools or shovels to the roof. Workers should not be allowed to carry them up the ladder.
Exposure to Cold
Workers should be educated on the warning signs of over-exposure and hypothermia. Regular temperature and wind chill checks should be performed to prevent workers from being exposed to the cold for too long.
Workers should be rotated to reduce their individual exposures to cold and to back injuries from shoveling snow.
Mechanized Equipment Use
Read, understand, and follow all manufacturers’ instructions for the safe use of snow blowers and similar mechanical equipment. A spotter should be used to make sure neither the equipment nor the operator gets too close to the edge of the building.
Equipment back-up alarms should be checked to ensure they are in operating condition. Workers should be instructed to operate equipment at reduced speeds because of the slippery conditions.