Being a publication focused on the business of roofing, writing about safety comes quite naturally around our shop. While our attention is seldom far from safety, this month’s issue of Roofing Contractor highlights safety, so I want to get things started with a few words on the topic.

Roofing is risky work: always performed at a height, it is hot, slippery, sharp, heavy, and tough. It’s unavoidably all that and more, but there are techniques and systems for approaching the work that can reduce the chance for damage, injuries and fatalities — still an unfortunate part of roofing work.

Risks are taken in every facet of the human experience. It’s a good thing that some of us are willing to take the risk to install the roofs that protect the masses. The roofs you build every day protect the buildings that make most everything we do safer. Could you imagine performing surgery out in the open or in a tent? It’s done daily around the world, but the surgeons working in these conditions would tell you their work is much better and safer when performed in the extremely clean and dry environment roofers help furnish — such as a hospital or clinic.

That, among other things, make the risks we take in construction worthwhile. Shelter is a basic human need, and you won’t have much shelter without a good roof.

In my view, the most significant improvement in roofing safety to come along since single-ply roofing is the use of aerial images to perform the dangerous work of measuring roofs. There are technologies emerging that will even reduce the risk of roof inspections with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).

Single-ply roofing made low-slope roofing safer by simply reducing the man-hours it takes to install a square. And now that single-ply systems are maturing and being replaced, they’re saving even more man-hours as they’re generally easier to remove than multi-ply systems with aggregate coverings. The simple reality is this: fewer people on the roof and the fewer hours they work equals less damage, injuries and fatalities.

Back to the emerging technologies that make roofing work safer. A roof measurement done via aerial imaging will reduce or eliminate the estimator’s time on the roof. This technology may eliminate one or, in some cases, two trips to the project site. Staying off the road eliminates the considerable risks associated with driving. In spite of the hazards associated with actually installing a roof system, operating a motor vehicle remains one of the most hazardous aspects of roofing work.

Speaking of safe driving, where would we be without the help of GPS? Getting great directions from point to point saves miles and provides greater safety for operators. There are GPS systems that allow roofing contractors to track their team’s movement as well as their preventative maintenance and fuel programs. In the world of roofing maintenance, GPS systems greatly enhance dispatch, further reducing man-hours and mileage.

The use of tablet computing to deliver presentations promises to further reduce the amount of time spent preparing presentations and, in some cases, allows the salesman to prepare a custom estimate and visual presentation on the first visit to a project site.

Roofing may be a risky business, but emerging technologies are pointing us toward a safer future.