Commercial roofing is one of the most important and profitable sectors in the construction industry. Regardless of the size of the facility, every business requires a reliable roofing system that is durable and long-lasting. Many jobs are involved in commercial roofing, such as installation, repair, replacement, and maintenance, which are critical in preserving the roof’s features and individual components.
However, industrial roofing jobs are more prone to falling hazards. An alarming report states that the average fatality rate in the roofing industry is at 51.5% per 100,000 cases. Although the percentage may not look high, you need to note that the average rate across all sectors was only 3.5% per 100,000 cases.
Due to the danger of falling hazards, more people in the roofing industry have become more cautious and compliant with OSHA standards. There are many ways of ensuring safety on the rooftop, including fall protection systems, guardrails, roof hatches, and proper ladder access. Roof safety starts with having safe access for workers and equipment. With this in mind, we shall discuss the significance of providing secure access to the roof.
Roof Hatch Safety
If you’ve ever scheduled a commercial roofing maintenance or repair job, one of the first things that your roofer would ask you is if you have safe access to the roof. Nothing is more reliable than a durable roof hatch for secure access.
Depending on the task involved, roof hatches come in various sizes and features. The most standard is a single-door unit made with aluminum or galvanized steel. If you need a larger door to allow access to equipment, there are 48″ x 48″ hatches that you can purchase.
Workers involved in the roofing industry understand the significance of installing a roof access door because they rely on these doors during repair and maintenance. It addresses fall and access hazards, which are common underestimations from many building managers since no one goes to the roof daily.
Here are some safety actions that you can follow for your roof access hatch:
- The maximum incline for roof hatches in flat roofs is up to 30 degrees.
- The roof hatch must have proper insulation to ensure efficiency and prevent condensation.
- The hatch must be lightweight and easy to handle.
- Depending on your location, the roof hatch must be weather-proof and fire-resistant. Choose a product with anti-corrosion properties for highly corrosive areas like coastal zones and chemical plants.
- As per OSHA standards, guardrails must support all roof hatch units installed. Guard rails are critical in ensuring workplace safety, especially during winter or after the rain. In addition, you have to install a support bar near the exit point for balance and grip.
- Roof hatches must have a locking arm mechanism that allows users to hold the door open. It should not close on its own to avoid injuries.
Ladder Access Safety
The use of ladders is generally part of any work in the construction industry, especially in the roofing business. Installing access ladders provides many safety benefits and is ideal for buildings with multiple roof heights to avoid the inconvenience of carrying a portable ladder through the roof.
Aside from roofing contractors, roof ladders can allow safe and hassle-free access to other professionals in the industry, such as:
- BUILDING MANAGERS – Large-scale buildings often have one or more building managers that are generally responsible for maintaining the interior and exterior aspects of the facility. It includes regular inspections and performing basic repairs when necessary. A durable mounted ladder can allow the manager to access the roof and check for any signs of damage after a heavy weather event or look for a leak source.
- HVAC TECHNICIANS – Many commercial buildings place their HVAC systems on the roof mainly due to a lack of space or if the unit runs too loud to be placed inside. With a surface-mounted ladder, the technicians can conveniently enter the roof and focus on their workload.
- PEST CONTROL – Although pest control tends to focus on the interior side of the building, there are certain situations when they need to access the roof, primarily commercial flat roofs. The pest control team can focus on removing nests or rodent breeding grounds on your rooftop by installing secured ladder access.
- ROOFERS – As a building owner, you can never underestimate the significance of a well-maintained roof. To extend a commercial roof’s lifespan and maintain its durability, you need to schedule regular inspections and repair if required. An adequate roof ladder access streamlines the process to make the workload more efficient.
When it comes to roof ladders, they ideally need to be installed into the surface to offer convenience and security whenever used. It would help choose a roofing company that complies with OSHA guidelines to effectively minimize certain risks such as fall hazards.
Essential Tips on Roof Hatch Fall Protection
Roof hatches and ladders effectively contribute to the overall safety of your commercial roofing system. They generally provide reliable access to the roof, which is extremely helpful to roofing technicians and building managers. Although they offer additional protection, it would still help if you followed these tips to enhance safety and protect your workers.
TIP#1: CLOSE THE HATCH
Unless you have a guardrail installed, it would be better to permanently close the hatch after use to reduce the risk of a worker or a piece of equipment falling into the roof opening. Closing the hatch may seem commonsense, but there are instances when workers forget because they’re in a hurry or carrying some equipment. Ensure that your roof access door is secure against strong winds and can support a significant amount of live load or materials that may fall on the hatch.
TIP#2: FOLLOW OSHA GUIDELINES
OSHA sets the guidelines that serve as a baseline for workplace safety. Its overall objective is to ensure that all workers have safe working conditions and provide employers with training and assistance to understand the significance of being OSHA-compliant.
In addition, you wouldn’t want to violate OSHA regulations because their penalties are severe, and their fines come at a price, depending on the gravity of the situation. The institution recently had a 6.2% increase in their penalty fees, with the highest reaching a maximum of $145,027 willful or repeat violators.
TIP#3: INSTALL A TELESCOPING POLE
Doubling the safety of your roof is critical in preventing fall-related injuries or incidents. Aside from guardrails, you can also install a telescoping pole as an additional security feature whenever you or your workers need to access the roofing system.
Telescoping poles come with a tubular section that automatically locks when fully extended. It is an effective spring balance mechanism that you can permanently mount over a fixed ladder to serve as a handhold to ensure balance when accessing the roof.
TIP#4: GUARDRAIL INSTALLATION
Placing roof guardrails around your access hatch effectively reduces the risk of falling hazards involved when working at heights. OSHA considers an open roof hatch a severe fall hazard; they dedicated an entire section of safety standards required for guardrail systems.
Regulation 1910.28 reiterates the employer’s duty to provide workers with adequate fall protection systems. In this section, the agency mandates guardrails at every opening in the roof, such as hatches and ladderways.
Final Thoughts on Roof Access Safety
Although roofing jobs are generally hazardous due to the risk of falling incidents, you can effectively reduce or prevent such incidents from happening as long as you follow applicable regulations and install safety devices such as roof hatches and mounted ladders.
In addition to having safe access to your commercial roof using the roof hatch and ladder, you can also enhance your roof’s overall fall protection system by installing guardrails and telescoping poles. The proper execution of fall protection rules on your commercial roofing can help keep a safe roof environment.