How to Safely Get Up and Walk on Your Roof Using a Ladder

july 14TH, 2020 UPDATED 3:00PM CT

Walking on your roof is a dangerous business. That’s why roofing is one of the most dangerous professions out there. And that’s why most roofing jobs should be left to the professionals. With that being said, there are some small jobs that you might not want to call in the big boys for. Perhaps you just need to clear some debris off the roof after a storm, or maybe you want to check for damages. Whatever the case, if you are going to get up and walk on your roof, you need to make sure you take the proper safety precautions to avoid injury.

Walking on your roof – what could go wrong?

There’s lots of things that can go wrong when roofing. Some of the most common injuries occur from:

Falls. Falls are the number one cause of injury for roofers. This should come as no surprise given the fact that you are working from heights whenever you are roofing. While some falling accidents only cause minor injuries, some can be more serious. Falling from a roof can lead to traumatic brain injuries, amputations, spinal cord and back injuries, and broken bones.

Being hit with falling objects. When working on roofing projects, it’s not uncommon for ladders to fall, shingles to fly off the roof, or other objects to fall. If you’re in the way when this happens, you could be injured. Concussions, brain injuries, and punctures can all occur when hit with a fallen object.

Power tools. Many roofing projects include the use of powerful tools like saws and roof cutters. If not careful, these tools can cause serious injury. In some cases they have even been known to lead to amputations.

Carrying heavy materials. There are a lot of heavy materials carried when installing roof shingles or metal roofing. If not lifted properly, this could lead to serious back injuries. Strains and sprains are also common.

Heat stroke. Roofers work long hours in hot conditions. If you aren’t careful, you could suffer from things like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or severe sunburn.

Of course, these are just a few of the many things that roofers need to worry about when working up high. Other common roofing injuries can occur from stepping on nails, the use of nail guns, and so on and so forth. To avoid injury when on your roof, you need to be aware of the proper safety precautions. Here are some things you should think about when working on your roof:

Make sure your ladder is secure

Ladder injuries are one of the most common types of injuries for roofing companies. To avoid your ladder from slipping out from under you, you’ll want to make sure it is properly secured. To prevent the ladder from sliding from side to side, secure it to an anchor point with rope. Always make sure that your ladder is on flat ground with no bumps or divots, and ensure that the top of the ladder extends at least 3 feet above the roof. This will help to prevent it from sliding.

Make sure your ladder is at the proper angle

Getting the proper angle for your ladder is essential for preventing injury. Generally speaking, most roofing professionals use the 4 to 1 rule. For every 4 meters your ladder is in length, it should extend 1 meter out on the bottom.

Have someone spot you

One of the first rules of climbing a ladder is to have someone spot you. Whoever is at the bottom should hang onto the ladder and help to keep it steady as you climb.

Wear your harness

In the event that you do fall from your roof, you’ll want to make sure that you are wearing a harness. Harnesses may cost some additional money but they are a small price to pay for preventing serious injury. Always make sure that you follow the directions for attaching and wearing the harness. Failing to do so could prevent the harness from doing its job properly.

Invest in a good footwear

When walking on your roof, you don’t want to be wearing your flip flops. You’ll need to invest in a pair of shoes with a solid grip. This is especially true if you have a sloped roof. Hiking boots, approach boots, or Maritime deck sneakers are all great roofing choices.

Invest in a toolbelt

It can be tempting to carry your tools up the ladder with you in your hand but this drastically increases your risk of injury. Spend the extra $20 and go get yourself a toolbelt.

Check the weather

Always be sure to check the weather forecast before spending a day on your roof. You will want to avoid working in any wet conditions to avoid slips. Ideally, you should choose a day that is not too hot to avoid any risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. If you are working on a hot day, be sure to keep yourself well hydrated and take lots of breaks.

Clear your roof

When walking on your roof, things like tree branches, loose leaves, and other dirt and debris can become a slipping or tripping hazard. Always be sure to do a thorough check and clear any of these things away before starting your work.

Take your time

Working on your roof should never be rushed. Rushing often leads to accidents. Save your work for a day when you have time to work at a slow pace.

Should you be walking on your roof?

The short and sweet answer to this question is “no”. Unless you are a roofing professional, walking on your roof is never recommended. With that being said, we know there are some people out there who are going to heed our advice. For those people, there are some questions you should ask yourself before climbing up that ladder:

How is the structure of my roof system?

If you’re going to be walking on your roof, you want to know that the structure is solid. While most newer homes will have a solid structure, older homes may not. This means that they may not be able to hold the weight of a human. Walking on a roof that isn’t structurally sound can be extremely dangerous and if any deterioration is present you could end up falling through.

What is my roof made of?

Depending on what your roofing is made of, walking on it may easily cause damage. Clay roofs, for example, are extremely delicate and can easily be broken just by walking on them. Tile roofs are also very delicate. Asphalt and shingle roofs are usually more flexible and able to handle people walking on them.

What is the slope of my roof?

The slope of your roof will play a huge role in how safe it is to walk on. Obviously, the steeper the slope, the more dangerous the game. If your roof is flat, it’s probably pretty safe to walk on (given that it is structurally sound), but if it is steeply pitched, you should leave any repairs to a professional.

If you have never performed any roof repairs before, it’s probably best to leave them to the professionals. Walking on your roof is extremely dangerous – especially if you don’t have the proper equipment or experience. Roofing contractors have been trained in all safety procedures and can get your roofing job done both efficiently – and safely!

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