Sometime back in 2013, I made the suggestion (to myself) that it would be a good idea to take photos of roofing work in progress as I encounter it in my travels. As OSHA continues its assault on contractors not following its rule for protecting workers from falls with a “my way or the highway” approach, I thought it would be interesting to see in an unscientific way just how many roofing workers displayed practices that would meet with OSHA guidelines.
It’s no secret that the industry is still far from adopting proper use of fall-protection schemes. While my little survey revealed many roofing workers employing the use of personal-fall-arrest gear, most, unfortunately, were either not making full use of it (i.e. donning harnesses but failing to tie off) or not using them correctly (trailing enough rope to hit the ground if they were to encounter a fall).
OSHA can claim to have gotten the attention of the roofing industry as evidenced by the amount of fall-protection gear roofing contractors have purchased. But they continue to miss when it comes to the hearts and minds of roofing workers. I’m not seeing a culture shift.
I have taken a few photos along the way — one is shown here from a recent trip to West Virginia. There are others, but I found that as I drive around, I lack the time and resources to stop and photograph every roof in progress that I encounter. Sadly, the roofing jobs in progress I’ve passed on the road over the past couple of years have around a 90 percent fail percentage (no or inadequate fall protection).
If OSHA would put the energy into educating designers, builders, homeowners and building owners that they put into writing (and enforcing) rules that they make up unilaterally (without listening to the roofing industry), they may actually see some culture change going on in this country.
Fall protection for all construction workers should be designed into all buildings. Building contractors should factor in the cost and other considerations for fall protection into their building plans instead of just expecting subs to carry the load (knowing that cheaters will fare better under that system). Building owners and even homeowners would insist on worker protection if they had any idea of just how dangerous working at height is without taking due precautions.
We can do better. All of us.