Seaming: Commercial Roofing and Fall Protection
Commercial roof contracting is a tough, competitive, demanding enterprise. It is complicated by constantly changing job conditions and specifications. Labor is scarce and expensive. One challenge follows another, and just when you think you have a few of them figured out, two more pop up. One challenge faced by commercial roofing contractors is that of providing appropriate fall protection for their workers. In recent years, local regulations and OSHA standards have actually been greeted by thinking roofing contractors with genuine concern for their application. In other words, we seem to be moving, as a culture, from considering fall protection schemes as a nuisance to a real necessity. Roofing contractors even see fall protection as adding value to their business as a contractor and employer. All commercial roofing contractors have not reached this plateau, but many have. For those of you who now consider fall protection a valid component of your roofing jobs, why not consider taking it to the next level? Over the past several years, Roofing Contractor has reported on many examples of this concept, so understand that this is merely an observation of something that already exists in the world of commercial roofing. The “next level” in fall protection involves two elements.
First, bring the building owner into the picture. In many cases, we should add permanent fall protection schemes into new construction or retrofit situations. Specifiers should add permanent fall protection systems to buildings where maintenance will be performed by personnel on the roof through the normal course of a building’s life. Where the original plans do not call for this, the contractor has an open-field opportunity to sell it as an extra on the roofing contract.
Second, manufacturers of permanent anchorage systems must step in to engineer, manufacture and promote these systems. We have seen a number of permanent anchorage systems being advertised in Europe. The building owner must already pay you to install (and uninstall) fall protection systems for use during the course of construction. Doesn’t it make sense to leave those systems in place in many cases? Doesn’t it also make sense to take fall protection from a nuisance to a valued part of your safety program, to an “extra” to add to the profitability of some jobs?
This scenario is being played out now, but not on a grand scale. In the first place, many roofing contractors do not take the time to make building owners aware of this option. While we may soon witness a number of permanent fall protection schemes come onto the market, there are not very many available commercially in this country.
To move in the direction of selling permanent fall protection systems to building owners, you can begin now to ask your building owners how they address fall protection after you are gone. Chances are, they will look right back at you for answers. In the cases where pre-engineered systems are not available, you may wish to go the do-it-yourself route. If that is the case, you really do need to have any permanent fall protection system professionally engineered to meet all codes and safety standards.
As an industry, we may profit from this opportunity to lead our building-owner clients to this level. And we may be able to pull it off without being dragged, kicking and screaming, by governmental or insurance industry regulations.