Roofing workers encounter many risks on the job, and employers are responsible to protect them from hazards they may face including falls from heights, extreme temperatures, electrical voltage, noise and hazardous materials. Health and safety considerations inform behaviour, activity, planning and decisions, and organizations looking to build a roadmap to improved safety and reduced potential hazards may look to industry best practices to navigate their way forward.
Foundational health and safety measures include first aid training, awareness of health and safety responsibilities, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), industry and company training, and control of hazards to help protect workers. Employers need to ensure workers have the proper equipment, materials, and are appropriately trained. Fostering a safety culture in the workplace is another critical component of an organization’s overall health and safety management program. Key indicators of a positive safety culture include: management commitment to health and safety, company values, worker involvement in jobsite safety, company health and safety communications and employee accountability for health and safety. Organizations with a strong safety culture will experience a top-down and bottom-up commitment from employees, and will benefit from improved project return on investment and the ability to retain and attract good talent.
As a result of the pandemic, safety protocols have changed on job sites, not to mention everywhere else. Stricter measures remain in place at this time – sanitizing hands when arriving and leaving job sites and trailers, wiping down reports, mandatory masking and contact tracing, and new job site etiquette. According to Brandon Hexham, Vice-President Operations-Canada with ILD, “How we perform our work hasn’t changed, but pandemic-related safety protocols have changed other aspects of the job. Some of the new procedures have slowed down the overall process, but the safety measures are an important layer of safety adherence that it’s critical we all observe.”
It’s not uncommon for multiple trades to be at work on the roof at the same time. For the building owner, it’s a means to cut down on total project time, reduce costs, and lower project management and administration expenses. From a safety perspective, it’s important each trade is mindful of the potential hazards presented by other working trades – ladder incidents, slippery conditions, weather impact, trip hazards, falls and hot asphalt, among others. When working alongside other trades in a shared rooftop space, it’s important that teams understand the proper procedures for working safely – where to go, what to do, when to keep your distance, what to look out for. Providing safety training and defining safety protocols is imperative for workers to avoid common rooftop safety hazards and prevent injuries.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to protect against safety and/or health hazards. Equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses, and safety boots, along with hearing and respiratory protection, help prevent and reduce the severity of injury in the case of an accident. With innovations such as wearable technology embedded in PPE, safety managers have more information at their fingertips to help improve safety on the worksite. Companies can now use smart helmets equipped with a 360-degree view of surroundings, smart safety vests that monitor working temperature and have emergency call buttons, smart glasses that allow the user to ‘pull up’ plans and instructions, smart work boots that relay real-time location of workers, and wearable sensors that alert supervisors of a slip, trip or fall. Myriad opportunities to keep workers safe.
Just as companies work toward continuous improvement of workplace organization, reduced waste, and process efficiency, so too should they approach their health and safety management systems. Even sophisticated organizations with longstanding safety protocols and a healthy safety culture should continue to look for ways to improve and optimize processes. Advanced areas may include emergency prevention and preparedness, change management and continuous improvement planning.
The occupational health and safety hazards present in rooftop work inspire all of us to stay on top of best practices. For any trades that work at heights, there is the potential for serious injury or death. At ILD, we are committed to ongoing review and improvement of our safety and health management systems to help protect our roofing crews and our clients’ interests. As is often said, safety is job one!