Roofing Safety: A Review of Cal/OSHA's Requirements; Prevent Slips, Falls, Serious Injuries, and Deaths
Workers on roofs are at risk for serious injuries and death from falls. Not only do they perform their jobs at substantial heights, but they may also be working on surfaces that are not level, lack permanent guardrails, and have unguarded openings or deceptive covers. (Skylights, for example, generally will not support a worker's weight). Employers must be aware of and comply with regulations that are designed to protect roofers from fall hazards.
Rules for Protective Methods
Rules for roofing activities are found in the "Construction Industry Safety Orders, Article 30, Roofing Operations and Equipment." They apply to workers who are installing or removing both single-unit roof coverings (asphalt and tarred paper roofs) and multiple-unit roof coverings (shingled roofs). They do not apply to jobs that are of short duration and limited exposure in which the presence of safety devices would create a hazard equivalent to or greater than the hazard of the job itself.
Protective systems not covered elsewhere (like personal fall protection systems and scaffolds) must meet the following requirements found in Section 1724 of Article 30:
- Crawling boards must be at least 10 inches wide and 1 inch thick, with cleats that are at least 1 inch by 1 1/2 inches and as long as the width of the crawling board. The cleats must be spaced equally, no more than 24 inches apart, and secured with nails that are driven through and bent over underneath the board. When the building design permits, crawling boards must extend from the ridgepole to the eaves. They must be secured with ridge hooks or other effective means and have handholds of 1/2-inch Manila rope.
- Catch platforms must extend at least 2 feet beyond the projection of the eaves, be fully planked, and have standard railings and toeboards.
- High-lift material trucks must have standard railings and toeboards along the open sides when the platform is used as a work surface at a height greater than 7 1/2 feet above the level beneath. If this is not feasible during loading or unloading, an exception can be made.
- Ramps and runways used exclusively for loading or unloading materials at heights up to 20 feet must be at least 40 inches wide. Above 20 feet, they must have standard guardrails on both sides. If the slope is 2 feet or more for each 10 feet, they must have cleats or other traction.
- Eave barriers must be either solid or built to comply with the requirements for standard railings. They must be securely anchored, either at eave level or by ropes securely connected to anchorages on the roof. Workers who move the eave barriers must wear personal fall protection.
- Scaffold platforms, if used for fall protection, must comply with all requirements for scaffolds and must provide a fully planked platform near eave level.
Rules for Work Conditions
The roof's slope and the type of work being done dictate some requirements, found in Section 1730 of Article 30:
Condition: Roofs with 0:12 to 4:12 slope, when the roof is 20 feet or more in height, or at any height when backward-pulling machinery is in use, when the work involves single-unit roof coverings.
Requirements: Protect workers with personal fall protection, catch platforms, scaffold platforms, eave barriers, standard railings and toeboards, or parapets at least 36 inches high along roof edges that are perpendicular to the direction in which the equipment is moving, or with a flags-and-headers warning system:
- Flagged, readily visible warning lines must be 34 to 45 inches above the roof surface.
- Headers (sheets of roofing or other materials) must be laid parallel to the roof's edge, when conditions permit.
- Warning lines and headers must be no less than 5 feet from the roof's edge; when backward-pulling equipment or motorized riding equipment is used, headers must be at least 10 feet from the edge. When headers cannot be used, warning lines must be at least 10 feet from the roof's edge and perpendicular to the direction in which the worker is moving.
- You must have a clear access path, formed by two warning lines, between the work area and materials handling/storage areas.
Condition: Roofs with slope greater than 4:12, at a height of 20 feet or more, when the work involves single-unit roof coverings.
Requirements: Protect workers by:
- Not using backward-pulled equipment.
- Using parapets, personal fall protection, catch platforms, scaffold platforms, eave barriers, standard railings with toeboards, or a combination of these.
Condition: Roofs with 0:12 to 5:12 slope, at a height of 20 feet or more, when the work involves multi-unit roof coverings.
Requirements: Protect workers with a roof jack system, parapets, or another method that provides equivalent protection.
Condition: Roofs with greater than 5:12 slope, at a height of 20 feet or more, when the work involves multi-unit roof coverings.
Requirements: Protect workers with parapets, personal fall protection, catch platforms, scaffold platforms, eave barriers, or roof jack systems. On roofs steeper than 7:12, workers using roof jacks must also wear safety lines.
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