Residential roofing crews often ignore OSHA roof-safety rules.
Credit: Photo: Residential roofing crews often ignore OSHA roof-safety rules.

Roof anchors and harnesses. Great idea, but how often do you actually see them being used on a residential roofing job? Slideguards are more common, but their use is by no means universal. The National Association of Home Builders/Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule book clearly spells out roof safety rules, but getting employees to take them seriously in residential roofing, where time is of the essence, is another matter. "Everyone is invincible until they've had a fall," says Bob Kulp, co-owner of Kulp's of Stratford, a roofing company in central Wisconsin. "Or, until they're trained."

Patrick Fick, president of Fick Bros. Roofing & Exterior Remodeling Co., in Baltimore, says that even trained crews sometimes resist. "On something high or scary, they want it," he says. "On the everyday average house, they think it's overkill."

Zero Tolerance

Kulp's of Stratford has a safety director on staff who conducts a half-hour safety meeting with crews after the company's regular monthly meeting. These safety meetings are in addition to weekly toolbox meetings organized around topics such as floor openings, scaffolds, and use of tools or guardrails. (See for more.)

Fick Bros. Roofing issues pre-printed sheets with bullet points to installers attending its toolbox meetings. Attendees sign to verify they were present for the meeting. Fick Bros. also uses a safety consultant who inspects three or four company jobs in every two-week period. He has the authority to bring crews down from a roof if he sees anything immediately wrong. He photographs jobsites and files a regular report with Fick Bros. management.

At Don Kennedy Roofing, in Nashville, Tenn., the company's investment in roofguards ? an anchor and cable system for steep-slope applications ? is followed up by regular hourly Friday training sessions. Rules for roof safety ? and regular training ? are critical because they help prevent falls, keep workers' comp rates affordable, and take away homeowners' nagging fear that an accident on their property could result in a ruinous lawsuit.

Little Tolerance

For companies that want to avoid responsibility for on-site accidents, safety training becomes part of the company culture. "To me, it's a concern every day," says Scott Siegal, owner of Maggio Roofing, in Takoma Park, Md.

Maggio Roofing went without a serious injury for 20 years, until two years ago when a foreman ? who had temporarily removed a safety harness ? accidentally stepped off the roof and died from injuries sustained. Now crews harness up when they leave the shop, and Maggio Roofing has a zero-tolerance policy for those who fail to follow safety procedures. The first infraction is suspension. The second, termination. "To see somebody get needlessly hurt is painful," Siegal says. "You think: What could we have done differently?"