Safer steps for reaching new heights
May 17, 2021
Recent research has revealed roofing is one of the most dangerous trade professions in the UK, making the top three alongside tree surgeons and scaffolders. All these trades predominantly require working at height, but while the risks can be great Stephanie Bradley, Product Manager at WernerCo, discusses ways to minimise the possibility of accidents and injuries.
Currently, roofers account for nearly 24% of all work at height fatalities within the construction industry, therefore the need for suitable safety equipment remains paramount in order to avoid serious injury.
With this in mind, roofers need to ensure they are up to date on current guidelines, such as the HSE’s Health and Safety in Roof Work, in order to safely work at height on site.
Step 1 – Invest in quality
It can be tough keeping on top of the latest safety guidelines and work at height regulations, which are continually being reviewed. So, when selecting a tool or safety solution for working at height, professionals should always look to source from a reputable and trusted manufacturer. The market has recently seen a wave of cheaper imports however, these lower cost tools may not guarantee the products meet safety standards or have been tested to the same standard of a well-established manufacturer.
Step 2 – Inspecting your tools
When you’re using tools day in day out it can be easy to overlook the wear and tear of work at height equipment, therefore regular inspections should be carried out before each use to ensure its ongoing safety for users.
These inspections should be carried out by a competent person who can identify problems at an early stage. To help ensure the correct inspection is carried out, those who are responsible for portable ladders should refer to EN131, which sets out guidelines for the inspection of work at height equipment. These reviews should include pre-use checks, detailed inspections and interim inspections as appropriate. All of these checks should identify defects or damage that may affect safety.
For roof ladders there is currently no UK legislation, however, this is currently in development from the British Standards Institute. In the absence of this it is always recommended to work with your current supplier to ensure that your roof ladders continue to stay safe and fit for purpose. WernerCo offers a handy guide online, which follows a checklist of what should be inspected on your ladders, which can be followed before every use or when returning products from use or hire.
Step 3 – A safe workspace
After a difficult year we’ve all been keen to get back to working at full capacity, however, working outdoors in the harsh British elements can come with its risks. With an unpredictable start to spring including frosty weather and even snow, these conditions can create a hazardous environment when working at height.
That’s why when working on roofing projects it’s vital that regular risk assessments are carried out to ensure employers are providing a safe working environment for their staff. The HSE’s Health and Safety in Roof Work outlines guidance on how to plan and work safely on roofs and how to ensure that the working environment is safe for yourself and employees.
Step 4 – Using the right tool
Roofers regularly spend their time working at height and many are conscious of these risks. However, the HSE reported that the majority of falls occur from the edges of roofs, through the gaps in roofs, or through fragile materials and roof lights, and therefore it’s important that the correct tool is used for the job.
It is recommended that there is a secure means of entry and exit when accessing a roof. A general access scaffold or tower scaffold will provide the most suitable solution, but a properly secured roof ladder should be the minimum requirement. With both flat and sloping roofs, it is crucial to understand the different precautions that need to be taken to ensure workers minimise the risk of injury.
Full edge protection will usually be required when working on sloping roofs. It may seem obvious, but when working on a sloping roof, workers should never stand directly on slates or tiles, as they do not provide a safe footing, particularly when they are wet. Therefore, a roof ladder should be used in this instance.
There are a number of important factors to consider when purchasing a suitable roof ladder. It is crucial to check if it has been designed for the purpose; if it is of high quality construction; if it is properly supported and securely fixed with ridge hooks; if it is of suitable tread depth; and if it is simple to use.
Werner’s 771 Series Roof Ladder meets these specifications with ease. With a heavy-duty roof hook allowing for a superior fit across the roof apex, and a large rubber-sleeved end bar to enhance safety and grip, it is the ideal solution for any sloped roof application. Its 150kg load capacity also makes it a practical and easily manoeuvrable choice.
While working at height is second nature to roofers, spending some time before embarking on a job to check tools, carry out risk assessments and ensuring a safe working environment will put roofers in a better position to safeguard themselves and reduce the risk of injury should a slip or fall happen. If the industry as a whole can take more proactive steps to safety, this will hopefully reduce the number of accidents and fatal injuries reported each year.
T: 0121 454 9707
T: 0121 454 9707