I just put the finishing touches (well, my editor, Chris King, really does that) on the editor’s note for the May issue of Roofing Contractor.  Not to give the whole thing away now but it is about roofing contractors offering to install safety upgrades to building owners. Several of these building safety items would include screens for skylights, anchorage points for personal arrest fall protection systems, and permanent guardrail systems.

I wonder if this notion is going to sail. Roofing contractors see their primary job of roof maintenance as stopping the leak. That is a good thing because most of the time that is why they were called out in the first place. But there are a lot of older buildings out there that could use some modernizing.

Owners do upgrades when they are re-roofing, such as installing better gutter systems or highly-reflective membranes or adding more insulation to save on energy. I think it stands to reason that they may want to tune up their building safety when performing roof maintenance (or re-roofing).

One of the problems with getting roofing contractors to look beyond the leak to the safety items is liability. The roofing contractor already has to worry about his own people working on the roof. He must provide them with the training and tools to operate safely on every job.

Some building owners send their own people on the roof to perform a variety of maintenance tasks that could include working on HVAC or other mechanical equipment, or simply cleaning out the drains or removing snow. They bear the same responsibility for worker safety, including fall protection, as the roofing contractor.

Many buildings, even ones being built today, do not have many of these basic fall protection schemes built into them. Many building owners may not know solutions exist, and some may choose to ignore them. I am afraid that contractors choose not to talk about them because of the liability they may face downstream if there were a failure of any component added to the building that may be involved in a fall.

That is possible, but not a good reason not to engage. I have been around long enough to have seen cases that would make one think this way — just stay out of it and I will not suffer the lawsuit. Well, I believe there should be some kind of Good Samaritan law that would at least limit contractors’ exposure in cases such as this.

I’m not a lawmaker so I do not know what that law would look like, but contractors should be able to “fear not” when educating their building-owner clients about these upgrades.

That is my opinion … tell me what you think.