Falls are the most common accidents in the roofing industry, causing serious injuries and death. Working on a pitched roof can be problematic due to height and steep angles.

Roof workers should be familiar with the hazards of working on different types of roofs, the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear and utilize appropriate fall protection.

Roof workers need training about all specific roofing hazards. Roof surfaces can be wet or slippery and debris, such as leaves and sawdust, can create slip hazards. Extra materials and tools can drop onto workers below, so always keep work areas clean. Remember to cover or barricade skylights and roof holes or openings and avoid roof work during stormy, windy conditions.

Other recommendations:

  • Wear sturdy work boots with a heel and good sole traction.
  • Wear gloves, safety glasses and a hard hat.
  • Wear long pants and sleeves to help protect you from the elements.
  • Consider kneepads for protection when kneeling.
  • Set up ladders on stable surfaces and secure them to the roof for easy, secure access.
  • Use a ladder properly sized and rated for the work and always practice proper ladder safety.

While these are general roof work safety guidelines, roof angle and roofing type dictate additional required safety measures.

Single-unit roof coverings, slopes 0:12 to 4:12

For slopes between 0:12 to 4:12 with a height greater than 20 feet or when using backward-pulling machinery, such as felt-layers (regardless of height):

  • Install flagged warning lines, with a minimum tensile strength of 500 pounds, 34-to-45 inches above the roof surface to warn workers of the roof edge.
  • When possible, place headers consisting of sheets of roofing or other materials parallel to the roof edge.
  • Place warning lines and headers no closer than five feet from the roof edge.
  • Connect material handling and storage areas to the work area with a clear access path using two warning lines.

When using a felt-laying machine or other equipment pulled by an operator who walks backwards or motorized equipment on which the operator rides:

  • Headers shall be no closer than 10 feet and warning lines no closer than five feet from roof edges.
  • When conditions prohibit the use of headers, the warning lines must be placed no closer than 10 feet from roof edges that are perpendicular to the direction in which the operator is moving.

Single-unit roof coverings, slopes greater than 4:12

On single-unit (monolithic) roof coverings with a slope greater than 4:12, workers require protection from falls greater than 20 feet by one or more of the following:

  • Parapets 24 inches or higher.
  • Personal fall protection.
  • Catch platforms.
  • Scaffold platforms.
  • Standard railing.
  • Eave barriers.
  • Toe boards.

If workers ride motorized equipment designed for roofs greater than 4:12 and there is a 36-inch parapet running parallel to the equipment path, these safety measures are not required.

For slopes greater than 7:12, personal fall protection equipment must be used with roof jacks.

New production type residential construction

In new production-type residential construction roofing with slopes of 3:12 to 7:12 and eave height greater than 15 feet, protection must include one or more of the following:

  • Personal fall protection.
  • Catch platforms.
  • Scaffold platforms.
  • Standard railings.
  • Toe boards.
  • Roof jack systems.
  • Eave barriers.

Use a roof jack system or a 24-inch high parapet on roofs more than 20 feet high.

For new production-type with slopes greater than 7:12, regardless of the height, one or more of the following must protect workers:

  • Personal fall protection.
  • Catch platforms.
  • Scaffold platforms.
  • Standard railings.
  • Toe boards.

Workers in new production-type roofing also require documented training on general roofing hazards as well as scaffold safety, work on or near gable ends, scaffold work, how to place materials on the roof, impalement hazards, and the care and use of fall protection.

By utilizing this training, wearing the appropriate PPE and using the proper fall protection, roof workers can greatly minimize the risk of injury while working on sloped roofs.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.