Commercial Roofing Safety – Essential Practices and Regulations

Roofing Facts

Most commercial buildings require roof maintenance, often involving employees climbing to inspect or perform repairs. This is why it is essential to put best practices and strict regulations in place to protect everyone on the roof from dangerous falls.


Roof ladders are integral to commercial roofing but can pose a severe risk if improperly installed and maintained. Ladders are one of the most frequently cited pieces of equipment during OSHA inspections. Improper ladder installation and maintenance can contribute to instability and unsafe conditions, resulting in injury and property damage.

When choosing ladders, look for sturdy, durable materials and features such as walk-thru handles and safety cages. Always ensure a ladder is set up at the correct angle (one foot out for every four feet of height) and secured so it doesn’t tip backward. Lastly, ensure ladders aren’t placed on slippery surfaces and test their stability by having a spotter hold the base. In many cases, HVAC technicians, exterminators, and facility managers rely on ladders to access a building’s roof to survey for possible storm damage or leaks. A stable roof ladder system gives them dependable, safe access to their work area.

Warning Lines

Whether a simple leak or a roof needs replacing commercial and residential roofing safety plans must be in place. Having a plan means ensuring that all employees have access to PPE, that there are no hazards in the work area, and that the work is being performed safely.

A warning line system is a fence-like perimeter of flagged lines that separates a work area from the roof edge. Workers are not allowed closer than the warning line and must be supervised by a safety monitor.

These systems can be expensive and require specialized training to use effectively. However, a good game plan and efficient handling can make them more cost-effective. For example, using a polyester flag line that can be coiled on a reel avoids tangled lines and makes set-up and removal quick. This can significantly reduce labor costs. In addition, this type of line has excellent sun and weather resistance. This helps reduce maintenance costs and keeps workers safe and productive.

Roof Hatch Railings

While roof hatches can be a convenient access point to a rooftop area, they must be treated with great care. Like ladders, they can present fall hazards if workers step too close to the edge. OSHA regulations dictate that any roof hole with exposed sides requires a guardrail to protect against falls. While personal fall arrest systems and netting promote safety, these are not considered adequate protection by OSHA and can result in a willful violation — carrying hefty fines.

Fortunately, roof hatch railings are an excellent solution that meets OSHA standards and combines strength with convenience. They have self-closing gates designed to fit many roof hatches and ladderways. They can also be used with ladder safety posts that mount to the top two rungs of fixed-access ladders.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) minimizes exposure to various hazards. Examples include hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, respirators, gloves, and steel-toed boots. These everyday tools help protect commercial roofers’ heads, eyes, ears, and hands while on a roof.

OSHA requires warning line systems for those working 6 feet or higher from an unprotected edge. These bright flag lines are placed around the perimeter of a rooftop and alert workers to fall dangers. They must be combined with a guardrail system, a fall arrest system, or a safety net.

To ensure that a PPE program is successful, the people who will wear it must be involved. This includes senior management, the safety and medical staff, supervisors, the health and safety committee, and workers. It is essential to apply to everyone because it will make the program easier to accept and implement.

Commercial Roofing Safety – Essential Practices and Regulations
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