They run their own business, and while they do not have employees, Berle and Kay Blehm have a highly sought-after commodity when it comes to the needs of the roofing contractor: they invent safety tools.
The Blehms, partners of Level Rite Ladder Safety Tools based in Oroville, Calif., have what a contractor might need to stay safe on the job.
“We sell throughout the United States via Internet as we do not have a storefront or employees,” said Berle Blehm, the company’s president. “Parts are ordered and then assembled by us at our Oroville location.”
Blehm has designed and developed seven ladder safety tools since 2003 that have been tested and meet guidelines published by OSHA, ANSI, and the NFPA. He has received four patents and has one patent pending.
“The company offers add-on accessories for most of the tools that are sold separately and expand their usefulness,” he said. “All tools and accessories are made of 6061 T6 (aircraft) aluminum and Grade 5 bolts for strength and durability, and tools and parts are warranted for one year.”
Ladder Roof Anchor
In 2005, Blehm patented a Ladder Roof Anchor that attaches to a ladder. It was designed for work on steep-sloped roofs with roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, but Blehm said accessories have been developed to accommodate work on materials such as metal with standing seams and clay tile.
“A Dial Plate permits an extended arm to adjust to any pitch roof and which is then locked in place with a pin, so that a ladder may be anchored to the pitch of the roof,” said Blehm, who noted the tool folds into the profile of a ladder for storage when not in use.
There was nothing on the market that is like the Ladder Roof Anchor, according to Blehm, so he began showing it to safety engineers at OSHA meetings in California, Oregon and Washington.
Ron Haverkost, an OSHA safety engineer in Oregon, asked if the Ladder Roof Anchor could be made in to a Fall Protection tool.
“I used the same Ladder Roof Anchor design, strengthened it and spent months working on the testing to prove its capabilities,” Blehm said. “The Portable Tether/Ladder Roof Anchor was then tested by a certified tester to show that the new tool, when used on a 12:12 pitch roof or steeper, met fall protection (fall arrest/fall restraint) guidelines published by OSHA, ANSI and NFPA.”
“It may be used as a ladder roof anchor on less than a 12:12 pitch, but not as fall protection,” he continued. “The tool has been referenced in the 2006 Oregon OSHA safety manual as an example of fall protection that is available to consumers, and has been demonstrated at OSHA safety meetings.”
Holy Family Cathedral Church
National Roofing & Insulation recently used the Blehms’ invention on Holy Family Cathedral Church in Tulsa, Okla.
“It was awesome,” Blehm said. “These roofers were three and four stories up using our Portable Tether/Ladder Roof Anchor to suspend two ladders. They placed a scaffold between the two ladders, and said their project was ahead of schedule because of our tools they were using.”
John Druktenis of National Roofing & Insulation asked the Blehms if the Ladder Ridge Anchor could be used in the upcoming installation of copper shingles on a steep (12:12) roof.
“I proposed that he instead use the Level Rite Portable Tether/Ladder Roof Anchor,” Blehm said. “It attaches to a ladder, anchors the ladder to the roof line, and may be used as fall protection on a 12:12 or steeper roof. Tests show that the Portable Tether will support 5,000 pounds and will hold a 307-pound weight when used as fall protection.”
Blehm said he thought National Roofing & Insulation was going to install shingles on a small church. “I was surprised to learn that the roofs range in size from 50 feet by 37 feet,” he said. “John said that he planned to use four Portable Tether/Ladder Roof Anchors with Elevating Legs, two scaffolds and elevating legs on the ladder rails, when roofing the main roof, which is 100 feet by 50 feet.”
“I believe that the method of installing copper shingles - two ladders and ladder jacks to support a scaffold - used by National Roofing & Insulation can be used for faster and safer installation of the new type of metal tile roofing,” he continued. “They said that their project was one-third ahead of schedule because they were using the products purchased from Level Rite. People just need to become aware of this new method and the tools that are available.”
The Portable Tether/Ladder Roof Anchor is primarily used for roofing. “Our clients are predominantly in the construction and roofing industry,” Berle Blehm said. “Secondary users are installers and painters. They use the tool when painting the eaves of a house, installing gutters, air conditioners, solar panels and solar tubes - basically anything that goes on a rooftop. The third level of users are home inspectors and insurance inspectors, who use it to access the roof area, and several homeowners have purchased one so that repair services can access their very steep roof to do maintenance and cleaning on the roof or chimney.”
The Blehms are pleased when contractors let them know how their tools have helped them on the job. “Berle and I are not roofers, and we’re old,” said Kay Blehm, the company’s vice president. “We don’t climb around on roofs, so we are pleased when our customers send us photos of the tools being used on their projects.”
Fact is, Berle Blehm has thought up all his tools and accessories.
“We sell Elevating Legs and Wheels as accessories, which are add-on tools that expand the usefulness of the Roof Anchors,” he said. Elevating legs are attached to the inside of the ladder rail to lift the ladder up to 3 inches off roofing material such as metal with standing seams.
“The wheels permit the ladder to be moved across the roof,” Berle Blehm said, “if one chooses that convenience.”
The company also offers a rooftop material transport system that moves material from a roof eave up the roof on your anchored ladder.
“This is what one does when one is retired and has too much time on their hands,” joked Kay Blehm. “I on the other hand would love to be retired, again, and have leisure. (But) that’s OK. We’ll license the business when the right person or company comes along. Then Berle will only invent and I will only lounge around popping bonbon’s into my mouth.”
For now, the Blehms are perfectly happy inventing products that make life easier for contractors.
For more information, call Level Rite Ladder Safety Tools at 800-805-7672 or visit www.levelrite.net.