I just spent the last few hours researching statistics about the dangers of falls in roofing. This research took me not only through statistics but reams of rules and regulations on fall protection from state and federal agencies, as well as those of several other countries.
What is it that makes fall protection so damn difficult for many in the roofing industry? The “can do” exists with plenty of resources to set up and operate jobs with fall protection built in. The “must do” is there with regulations found in the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) CFR 29 Part 1926 Subpart M (and its several appendices). In my opinion, the “will do” piece is still the biggest problem we face as an industry.
To their credit, I see more and more roofing contractors building and improving on their safety programs. But many safety programs are merely “paper tigers,” lacking true and sustained support of ownership and management. How is compliance with your program today? When was the last time you pulled out your own plan and reviewed it with your troops? If it has been “too long” since you established your firm’s fall protection policy, perhaps this would be a good time to not only review it with everyone, but to recommit to running a completely fall-protected roofing company.
Do not stop with your people and your program. Take a look at your fall protection equipment, both personal protective equipment (PPE) and whatever static fall protection equipment you employ (guardrails, warning line systems, mobile and static attachment devices, nets, etc.).
While you are at it, how about inviting in your insurance agent or their risk management experts? Look around for all the resources available that would help you and your people improve on your overall safety program. You will likely find that the result is not only a safer operation, but one that is even more productive.
Why this topic and why now? Always being on the lookout for what is happening in the roofing industry exposes you to a wide variety of news from around the world of roofing. Reading reports of deaths and injuries from falls just goes with the territory. Recently we saw a report alleging that a roofing contractor, after the death of one of his workers in a fall through a roof opening, “faked” a fall protection scheme after the incident. He may face criminal prosecution for willfully interfering with the incident investigation. It just seems a bit ironic that the contractor could be tried for cheating on a post-incident inquiry when the real crime might have been his failure to protect his worker in the first place.
Another incident recently reported involved a roofing contractor in Great Britain that was convicted of manslaughter after one of the men he employed died from injuries sustained in a fall through a skylight. Not an OSHA fine there, but fines and jail time for the contractor.
In my opinion fall protection is primarily a management problem, but roofing workers must step up as well. And why would they not, since they are working at the point of the sword? My best advice regarding your roofers: talk to them about falls and fall protection. Your workers’ involvement in your safety program is vital, and your enthusiastic support of it will enable them.