Over the years, roofing contractors have learned to diversify and offer their clients additional services, providing everything from skylights to solar installation to give them the edge in their markets.

Legacy Roofing Services is no different, but the new service it is offering goes beyond merely serving the customer — it helps save the lives of fellow contractors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that falls are the leading cause of death in construction, with 320 of the 1,008 fatalities in 2018 being the direct result of a fall. In response to this and a growing demand for safety, the Ohio-based commercial roofing company is now offering fall prevention and safety protection as a service to commercial building owners and facility managers.

The kicker? Legacy Roofing provides the service even if it isn’t performing replacement or repair work on the building.

“We saw a tremendous need to offer fall prevention and safety protection as a standalone service,” said CEO Brian Kruse. “I feel we have one of the best safety programs in the industry, and we’ve been asked over the past few years by a number of customers to use that expertise to help them increase fall prevention safety on their roofs.” 

Q&A with CEO Brian Kruse

Safety First

Legacy Roofing is a relatively young roofing company — founded in 2012 by John Buxton and his father, Bud, in their garage. The company grew so quickly that, within a year, it purchased a building in Akron, Ohio, that now serves as the company’s headquarters.

Since then, Legacy has grown to have more than 150 employees that work in three markets: Northeast Ohio, Columbus, and a presence in Florida. This year marks its sixth consecutive appearance on RC’s Top 100 List, and the company is licensed and recognized by every major roofing system manufacturer.

The backbone of that growth is safety, earning Legacy a reputation as one of the safest contractors in the market. Case in point, the benchmark for safety is having a 1.0 Experience Modification Rate, which is typically provided by the National Council on Compensation Insurance. Legacy Roofing’s rate is at 0.8, meaning it’s 20% better than
 the average.

“Obviously, safety is hands-down the most important part of our business and we put training, protocols and equipment in place to ensure all our employees, no matter what their function, are safe,” Kruse said.

Heading up this stellar safety program is Steve Pulley, Legacy Roofing’s full-time director of safety for the past six years. Pulley has been the go-to for safety inspections and installing safety equipment on the roofs of customers that request it. These requests for safety evaluations became so frequent that the company decided to train enough employees to offer it as a standalone service.

“I’ve been toying with this idea on the side, and I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m invested in Legacy, let’s just put it out there,’ and I brought it to the CEO,” Pulley said. “We got everybody involved and we all just made a team effort and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’”

The program works by having professionals from Legacy Roofing Services perform safety inspections and assessments, determine work necessary to secure the roof, perform the installations and then certify the roof as OSHA compliant. The safety program was created independent of OSHA, but thanks to Legacy Roofing’s relationship with the Ohio branch of the agency, the company received guidance on certain issues.

The program includes everything from skylight cages and installing safety rails to dedicated tie-off points, controlled access zones, and horizontal lifelines. The most common requests so far are for edge protection and roof hatches. 

“It’s not just our industry that’s affected by that, it’s HVAC contractors, it’s window washers, it’s basically anyone that needs to get out there,” Kruse said.

The standalone service has resulted in mutual benefits and relationships. Many buildings need rooftop safety installations for ISO 9001 Certification, giving them additional incentives to have an inspection. Additionally, Pulley said he’s working with major manufacturers of fall protection products to become certified in installing their equipment, which will save customers and Legacy Roofing time and labor.

Well received so far, Kruse said he didn’t expect the program to pick up steam immediately with a medium to long-term rollout. While he hopes safety will continue to be an important subject for other roofing contractors, he said initiating a program like this isn’t for everyone. 

“I think it’s something not everyone is going to be able to do, as I think it does require a certain expertise, certain credentials and credibility,” Kruse said. “Because of increasing regulations and increasing requirements from OSHA, these are things customers are going to be needing…and we as an industry are well positioned to answer that need.”

Outside of the standalone safety service, Legacy Roofing practices what it preaches. Each crew has its own safety coordinator,  and new crewmembers go through rigorous on-site safety training as well as online classes. Training covers everything from harness and ladder use to asbestos abatement and material handling.

“It’s not just myself that has gotten us there, it goes from the CEO all the way down. Everybody preaches safety and we actually walk the walk,” Pulley said.

His hope is that more roofing contractors around the country will take safety seriously.

“I know there are just a very few roofing companies out in the industry doing this and offering this. I do think once people see how much this truly takes off they’re going to be jumping on the bandwagon and getting into the market as well,” he said. “All it is is to prevent the loss of a life, that’s all this program is doing.”

Staying Successful During a Pandemic

The standalone safety program comes at a time where roofing companies across the country are struggling to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. But safety alone doesn’t account for Legacy Roofing’s continued success. 

“It starts from a shared set of values,” Kruse said. “We’re big on quality and customer service and safety, and everyone at the company has bought into those things, and that has allowed us to continue living up to those expectations even though we don’t see each other face to face.”

The company embraces technology, being one of the few local providers that extensively uses drones and infrared scanning. Its technology repertoire also includes Legacy Online, a proprietary online portal for customers to access, view and store information. It includes updates and pictures for ongoing projects, a database of repairs and maintenance, budgets, images and life-expectancy models.

Legacy Roofing also relies on relationships forged with multiple roofing manufacturers — including Versico, Carlisle, Firestone, GAF, and Johns Manville. It also works with ABC Supply Co. and Beacon Building Products, and is involved with the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association and the International Facility Management Association.

“We believe these associations are integral into advancing our industry, setting standards and guidelines to maintain the integrity of the profession and being a driving force in advancing our common interests,” Kruse said.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Legacy to shut down its offices for a couple of months, leaving it open for essential personnel only. The office reopened in June using a rotation program, and employees who want to work from home have the ability to do so, Kruse said.

To get through the pandemic’s initial onslaught, Kruse said he relied on company culture, which is bolstered by solid benefits packages, quarterly bonuses, and a crew-of-the-month contest.

“We’ve found that the best way to create a positive and productive corporate culture is to hire and retain the type of employees that best embody our values and practices. We try to give people opportunities to have careers and not just jobs,” Kruse said.

Being a company that prides itself on safety, Legacy Roofing exceeds the norm for COVID-19 protocols. In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, all workers are required to wash their hands four times a day, take their temperatures, disinfect ladders at least twice daily and disinfect any equipment they touch on the roof twice a day.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Kruse said. “By just keeping up with what Ohio has asked for and going above and beyond what they’ve asked for, we’ve got a program that applies to the whole business, but it’s required us to change how we operate.”

To stay afloat during the pandemic, Legacy Roofing is also changing concentrations to repair work for companies that are putting roof replacements on hold. Since most of the company’s business comes from referrals, offering repairs that extend the life of a roof go a long way to creating lasting relationships.

“From our perspective, one of the most important things for a building owner to know about roofing is the importance of preventative maintenance,” Kruse said. “All too often we get called to deal with a major problem that could’ve been averted if a basic preventative maintenance program had been put in place.”

What won’t change, Kruse assures, is how Legacy Roofing approaches each and every
 job — with safety, employees and customers at the forefront.

“Be customer-centric and employee-focused. What that means is constantly look at things through the eyes of your customers and do things that are for the benefit of your employees,” Kruse said. “Without good customers and employees, you will not have a business.”