Rooftop Safety


With all the blog posts we have written lately, there is a higher than average volume of customers wanting to do their roof themselves.

After all, if you teach your customers about the work, why wouldn’t a few choose to try it out?

In addition to the fact that we have clearly demonstrated the value of replacing your roof before attempting to sell your home, why wouldn’t customers feel more urgency to sell their home for top dollar with all the speculation about Alberta home values and which direction they may be headed.

We also know, with the hailstorms that have hit Southern Alberta, there are a large number of people wanting to check out their roof and assess the damage before they call their insurance company.

Infographic: How to Get the Insurance Companies to Pay for Hail Damage.

It’s the responsible thing to do, so we made this handy dandy info graphic to demonstrate some basic tips to Rooftop Safety. Remember though, it is not a replacement for a professionally instructed fall arrest course. (click here if you would like to take one – we have!) We also cannot take any responsibility for anything that happens to you as a result of following these instructions, and we certainly aren’t holding a roofing nailer to your head forcing you to climb up there, but we want to try and help!

So now that the lawyers are happy, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

90% of Safety at heights is confidence, if you feel unsafe, it will make you unsure of yourself and typically that will affect balance. If you experience vertigo, sickness, dizziness or anxiety at height, guess what? Roofing isn’t for you.

With that basic minimum barrier to entry satisfied, the remainder is relatively simple.

First thing that should happen when you want to get on your roof, is you will need to set up at least one ladder. For extended periods, or large roofs, you should set up TWO ladders. In case for whatever reason one of them is not the ideal way down the roof.

(Having one ladder is not ideal. Should it fall or break it means option two is jump, tuck, and roll, and if the lawyers are reading this, we also do not suggest that!)

Ladders fall, people break them, you could be hurt and unable to get to one of them. The roof could have caught on fire as a result of some kind of work being conducted, or a ferocious lion could be guarding one. Who knows!

When climbing a ladder, you want to always maintain 3 points of contact, this means that your ladder should extend past the top of the point you wish to climb to. Three points of contact typically means 2 feet, and one hand, however, if you are feeling acrobatic and argumentative I suppose it could mean two hands and a foot.

You never want to work outside of arms reach from a ladder from side to side, as the transfer of weight could make for a fast ride down to the ground, and result in personal injury or death. (I read that last part off of the sticker on the ladder)

Worksafe BC actually has a great picture for how to set up a ladder properly and at the proper angle!

Ideally, as you climb to the top of the ladder you want to secure the top to the roof as well, to prevent any surprises. Falls are no fun, and most non-work related personal accidents happen at home from falls. So if you can get this right your pretty much guaranteed to survive living at home!

So much of safety also has to do with “not being stupid”. I know there are no such thing as stupid questions, but between laziness and arrogance, combined with a complete disregard for the laws of gravity. There is a lot of stuff we hear about that can be avoided.

Now should you get to the top of the ladder, and decide to climb onto the roof, be careful not to kick the ladder out from under you getting off the roof. I almost did this plenty of times when I was starting out so let me get that one out there right now!

Once on the roof, you are at a point of high risk, slippery surfaces, broken tiles, shakes, or shingles, steep slopes, loose granules, this is not to be taken lightly. We have tools that we can use to make secure platforms like Roofjacks and special shoes, or ladders that we can extend over the other side of the roof.

You probably DON’T.

So this means you will have to decide for yourself if you wish to continue. We highly highly highly recommend a safety harness and fall arrest system.

You can buy one for pretty cheap @ Princess Auto, they have all the kit you need to climb a roof safely right HERE!!

Again, it is no replacement for a fall arrest course but the basic premise is that EVEN if you’re wearing a harness, you do not want to fall, and hanging from a fall arrest harness sucks, and if nobodies there to rescue you, you’re not going to make it anyways. Not to mention falling hurts in a fall arrest harness.

It just hurts LESS than bouncing off the hood of your Murano onto your driveway.

So the idea, is to use fall arrest as fall prevention. Mount a rooftop anchor to the top centre of your work area, attach your harness to an adjustable tether or otherwise make it so the rope STOPS you before you get to the edge. So the worst thing you experience is slipping down the side of the roof, getting a bit of road rash and maybe a guest appearance on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Now once you have those two things figured out, run back down the ladder, and take off your flip flops!

I forgot to tell you, wear good shoes!

Ideally you should wear shoes with good ankle support, as a rolled ankle on a sloped roof is all the momentum you need to start a chain reaction of ends with you in the hospital, or a the very least with a rolled ankle which is going to really hold you back at the next Mud Hero run your friends conned you into signing up for.

Now if you should choose to do your roof yourself, remember that you are going to be moving thousands of pounds around on a sloped surface with hoses, ropes, and tools everywhere. Plan ahead, never bite off more than you can chew. I would suggest tearing off a 10 foot by 10 foot area, on a basic flat roof surface like a garage. See how long the process takes you and use that as your guide for the remainder of the roof. You do not want to have your roof exposed to the weather should a freak rain storm or snow storm come up.

(This is Alberta and my personal trainer from FitMD went hiking this August weekend and got caught in a blizzard!)

A big part of safety, is not being rushed, and if you suddenly notice a raindrop hit your face and you have your roof exposed, you might feel there is an urge to hurry it up, and get yourself into a position where you might cut corners with safety and pay the ultimate price!

Remember, we have a great tip on how to emergency tarp your roof to prevent leaks on one of our previous posts here on the blog.

So there you have it, the basics of how to work safely on your own roof.

  • Assess your confidence at height
  • Get good shoes!
  • Learn how to set up, ascend and descend a ladder.
  • Don’t do stupid things.
  • Get some fall protection gear.
  • Plan the job and never rush.

If any of this seems to stretch you past your comfort zone, that is okay! We are professionals and can make it affordable and hassle free to get any job on your roof done, no matter how big or small!

We are here to help.

Thanks again for reading!

“The Website Guy”