6 Summer Roofing Safety Tips to Beat the Heat
Updated May 2019
This summer, temperatures are predicted to reach above average temperatures on both coasts of the United States. Even cooler temperatures, such as those in the plains and Midwest, can reach dangerous levels for anyone out in the sun all day. Those who work outdoors, especially those in the roofing industry, will need to take extra steps to stay cool. When employers and employees understand the effects of heat on the workday, they can easily implement these summer roofing safety measures.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that thousands of workers suffer from heat-related illnesses each year, and dozens of heat stroke fatalities occur on the job annually. Construction workers, including those in roofing, make up about one-third of those fatalities.
Although working in the hot sun can present many challenges, roofers can take several precautions to stay safe.
Six summer roofing safety tips to help you beat the heat this season:
1. Pay attention to the weather
Checking the weather report regularly lets you stay aware of weather patterns throughout the day or week.
On any sunny day, try to work around the sun. That means getting started early in the morning before the sun gets too high. If possible, work on the west side of a sloped roof at the beginning of the day and on the east side later when the sun has changed positions.
Summer roofing safety isn’t just about staying cool on sunny days. If the forecast calls for rain or thunderstorms, make sure you have a quick way to shut down for the day. Even working on a roof during light rain can present hazards because it can make the roof surface slippery.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) runs an awareness campaign around heat illness each year, with resources for employers and employees on beating the heat. To stay up-to-date on the weather and get a better understanding of the heat index, download the Heat Safety Tool app from the OSHA or the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Cool down (and stay cool)
The U.S. Department of Labor recommends water breaks every 15 minutes, so make sure that everyone has water to drink, even on milder days. Fill up a cooler with water bottles and ice packs, and remind crew members to stay hydrated.
Dressing for the weather is also a crucial summer roofing safety tip. Make sure to wear light-colored clothing that is lightweight and loose-fitting as well as a hat with brim that will keep the sun out of your eyes. And remember to wear sunscreen—ideally SPF 30 or higher.
3. Watch out for heat-related illness symptoms
The main symptom of heatstroke is a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or more. However, if you don’t have a thermometer handy, you may have to look out for other signs of heatstroke in yourself and your coworkers this summer.
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- A throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Changes in behavior or mental state (such as confusion, irritability, or slurred speech)
- Flushed skin
- A lack of sweat despite the heat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
When someone exhibits these signs, direct that person to a shaded or indoor area. Help that person cool down with the use of ice packs, a cool tub of water, a fan while misting with cold water, or other methods. Additionally, make sure to report those symptoms to a supervisor and get immediate medical attention if symptoms become severe.
4. Don’t skip out on routine safety measures
The heat might tempt you to avoid an extra layer of a harness or hard hat, but personal fall arrest systems and other safety equipment are necessities in all weather conditions. As such, they are still an integral part of a summer roofing safety routine.
Falls are the number one cause of workplace fatalities and injuries, especially for construction professionals. Test your knowledge of some common on-the-job hazards and construction regulations with our roofing safety quiz.
5. Use caution around supplies and tools
Shingle bundles may be sitting in the sun for days or weeks before the installation takes place. If they’re hot, use caution handling them and wear gloves. Store them in the shade on the job site if possible.
If it rained recently, wet shingle bundles may be too heavy to carry safely. Always watch out for water and avoid working on a roof in the rain.
Direct sunlight can soften asphalt shingles; walking on them can be dangerous and make them susceptible to scuffing as well. Wait until they cool down if necessary.
Also look out for any tools that may have been left in the sun, especially those made of metal. Store items in the shade or wear work gloves when handling them.
6. Limit time spent on the roof
Because the roof gets so much direct sunlight, it can make working up there hot. Take breaks throughout the day in the shade.
Summer is also a good time to reevaluate your workflow and look for ways to reduce the number of trips you make up onto the roof. Even measuring by hand to conduct an estimate can expose you to some extreme temperatures. Ordering a property measurement report from EagleView gives you access to roof takeoffs without having to get up on a ladder.
This is especially crucial on steep residential roofs, where the risk of a fall increases when the roof pitch is over 4:12. An EagleView report can give you details on roof measurements as well as pitch calculations.
Stay safe this summer!
By using the above summer roofing safety tips, you can stay safe on the job site and throughout the season.
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