The Best Fall Protection for Roofers

The Best Fall Protection for Roofers

While roof work in many parts of the country is slowing down or confined to winter repair projects, in California there are still roofing projects in full swing. Because I work for a safety company I can't help but look to see what safety equipment (if any) they're using when the work is happening in my neighborhood. So far, even since the OSHA rule changes earlier this year, only about half of the crews I see working are wearing the mandated fall protection.

This is probably due to infrequent OSHA inspection, but they are out there, and smart companies are making sure their employees have at least basic coverage. The simplest way to be compliant with the roofing fall safety regulations is a kit like the Roofer's Fall Protection Kit from Protecta. The kit has a full-body harness, a roof anchor, a vertical lifeline, and a rope grab/lanyard combo. It comes in a container that can be used to transport it from job to job, and it meets all the OSHA standards for residential roofing fall protection.

That being said, it's not the kind of equipment you want to be wearing every day if you are working at height on a daily basis. Why do I say that? Well, first of all, the fall protection harness is basic. It tangles easily, and it isn't easy to get into or out of. And in the case of a fall, well, it will protect you and disperse the fall forces, but it will not be comfortable either to wear while working, or to dangle in after a fall.

The next step up for roofers is something like the Deluxe Roofers' Fall Protection Kit from DBI-SALA. The harness is a Delta No-Tangle Harness. It has wider straps and heavier construction. It's designed to keep from tangling when it's thrown in a bag or behind the seat of your truck. Generally speaking, everything in the Deluxe kit is heavier-duty and it comes with a nylon carrying bag to help keep everything in one place.

The upgrade that professional roofers seem to make first is the upgrade to a great harness. A great harness, in my humble opinion, is one that allows a wide range of movement, doesn't chafe, and doesn't get too hot. While harness design and technology has taken a definite leap in the past ten years, there are some definite standouts for the roofer who is ready to spend on comfort and flexibility. The ExoFit Safety Harness from DBI-SALA and the  AVAO from Petzl are two that come immediately to mind.

Another area where roofers can improve their equipment is with rope grabs. DBI-SALA makes an Automatic Following Rope Grab that simply follows the worker along the vertical lifeline as they move. Both the kits mentioned above come with manual rope grabs that require the worker to grip the device and move it up or down the lifeline when they need to change positions. You can see how this might be a big advantage when carrying tools or materials to a different area of the rooftop. Miller also makes a Hands-Free Trailing Rope Grab that keeps fall protection level with the worker.

Finally, smart two-person horizontal fall protection systems are available that not only take care of OSHA fall safety requirements, but also provide a high degree of mobility for a pair of workers. Systems like the Roofer's Two-Person Horizontal Lifeline Kit or the DBI-SALA Sayfline 2-Person Horizontal Roof Lifeline System allow two workers to attach their vertical lifelines to rings attached to a heavy-duty, but reusable, horizontal line. They can then move horizontally along the line while maintaining their vertical fall protection.

Everybody knows fall protection slows roofers down. But it can't be argued that at least part of that slowing occurs to workers who are falling off the roof. And if even OSHA, who we all know moves at a glacial pace, has determined this will cut down on injury and keep workers safer, it's here to stay. Workers and employers need to design fall protection systems for their workers on rooftops that allow them to work quickly, efficiently, and safely.

If you have questions about how to achieve this worthy goal, please don't hesitate to call us. We've got solutions for every budget and can help figure out fall clearance questions if you've got your site and structure dimensions.

Nov 11th 2013 Justin McCarter

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