Why Is Roofing Such Dangerous Work?

On the list of things that are considered dangerous work roofing is way up there. It ranks number four on the list of dangerous work. Most people do not realize exactly how dangerous roofing can be.

You would not be wrong to think that one of the biggest hazards facing a roofer is falling, however, there are other risks that are causing injuries in this industry that you may be surprised by. This is dangerous work that is rife with risks every day.

Roofing Is a Job to Leave to the Pros

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There is a huge DIY trend that often lures homeowners to take risks that they are ill-equipped to take and it ends in tragedy. Roofing is dangerous work. It is so dangerous that sometimes even highly experienced professionals find themselves suffering from workplace injuries. This article is going to look at all the potential risks that make roofing dangerous work, and hopefully, convince a few over-eager DIY’ers to leave the ladder in the garage.

What are the Risks?

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When you think of the dangerous work that is involved with roofing you likely think about falls off ladders, slipping off the roof, and other slip and fall injuries. While it is true since roofers do climb great heights falling off ladders is a genuine risk, but there are other risks that you may not consider.

The dangerous work that roofers do often puts them in harm’s way of other occurrences like electrocution, burns from materials, eye injuries from debris, and more. According to the CDC, about 150,000 injuries that require emergency attention are related to roofing accidents. Of course, the statistics sadly also include a death toll from roofing accidents.

Out of every 100,000 professional roofers about 24 are killed a year from a roofing accident. Even with the height of safety precautions in place, this is one of the most dangerous work conditions. A roofing contractor faces many dangers that are not within their control. Every time they get up on a ladder they are taking a risk that the wind will pick up that it will start to rain and make surfaces slick, and that there may be hidden risks they are not aware of.

Here are some startling statistics about this dangerous work:

  • Out of every 10,000 roofers 52 will be injured with non-fatal injuries.
  • There is a huge turn over rate in the roofing industry because of injuries.
  • Many roofers are forced into retirement early because of chronic health conditions brought on by this dangerous work.

A residential roofer faces a wide range of risks every day that can cause injury and fatalities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there was a jump of 15% when it came to fatal injuries in the roofing industry in 2019 (the latest year statistics are currently available for). Comparatively speaking, the average rate for fatal injuries on job sites that same year was up 3.5% which means roofing is one of the most dangerous work conditions out there.

The Leading Causes of Roofing Injuries

If you guessed slips and falls were the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries, you are right on point. Slips and falls are the leading cause but there is a range of other causes that result in injuries. Here is the list of causes:

  • Electrocution. After slips and falls, electrocution is the biggest risk of fatality on a roof. about 11% of all roofer fatalities are attributed to electrocution. Roofers come in contact with overhead lines, and in some cases are hit by lighting while on the roof.
  • Non-fatal injuries are often caused by falling debris. Roofing is a messy job that often results in unexpected debris flying off the roof and catching the roofer on the way down.
  • Chemical burns are another cause of non-fatal but often disfiguring injuries.

Roofers have to constantly be aware of their surroundings. They often work with hot materials that can cause serious burns. Electrical wires are always a risk, falls, slips, being hit by debris, there is an extensive list of injury causes that this dangerous work comes with.

Roofers use hot tar and chemicals that can cause severe burns to any exposed skin. Their eyes are at risk of debris flying into them. This dangerous work requires experience and a list of safety precautions to ensure the safety of every worker.

Safety Precautions are Key

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One of the most dangerous work environments for roofers is the re-roofing environment. Re-roofing is literally taking a new roof and placing it over an existing roof. According to injury reporting followed by OSHA 88 of the 111 deaths that occurred in roofing falls in 2019 occurred on a re-roofing site.

Why are these sites riskier than other sites? Industry leaders insist that it is a safety protocol that is failing roofers. It starts with project planning and this safety failure continues as a theme throughout the project.

Re-roofing presents certain challenges to the roofer that other roofing services do not. Cave-ins are more common, electrocution is more common, and other risk factors are more prevalent on these sites. However, with the right safety precautions and pre-evaluation of the project site, many of these risks can be avoided.

This dangerous work can be made safer by:

  • Proper training and oversight. The roofing industry is expected to grow by about 10% this year alone, which means there will be a lot of new people joining the ranks. Proper safety training and oversight is a must.
  • Proper fall equipment. Safety equipment for all roofing services is a must.
  • Proper job assessment. Roof collapses are a very real threat. Proper assessment steps can be taken to mitigate the risk.

Cutting corners in roofing is what causes the majority of accidents. This is already dangerous work in the best of circumstances cutting corners only makes it far more dangerous work. Proper training is a must before a roofer gets up on a roof. Even with the proper training apprentices need constant oversight and should never be left on their own until they can prove that they understand the safety precautions.

Professional roof installations that focus on safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of accidents and personal injuries. The cost of roofing accidents that result in personal injuries can be felt across the industry.

The Cost of Roofing Accidents

A personal injury attorney often will step in to help a worker that was injured in a roofing accident to help them recoup medical costs, lost wages, and more. Workplace injuries on roofing sites impact profitability and have other costs associated with them.

According to the Center for Construction Research and Training smaller roofing companies are more likely to experience workplace injuries. Businesses with between one and ten employees are 54% more likely to have an employee fall from a ladder.

There are both direct and indirect costs associated with this dangerous work. Here are some direct costs associated with a workplace injury in the roofing industry:

  • Workers compensation costs. Paying the health system for medical bills.
  • Costs associated with fixing faulty equipment, making repairs, and installation costs for safety equipment if it has been found the business is lacking in any of these areas.
  • If the employer is found at fault because of lack of compliance, there can be fines, court costs, and other payments that are due.

Of course, there is a high human cost that workers that are injured on a roofing job pay. Pain, suffering, in some cases permanent disabilities, and the worst case is the loss of life. The cost that injured workers pay cannot be measured.

This dangerous work is expensive. Falls and other injuries related to roofing activities cost the insured roofing contractors about $54 million last year alone. The average cost per injured employee is about $106,000 per incident. If an accident attorney is involved that figure can be much higher.

The really scary part is the professionals are not the only one’s that endeavor to take this dangerous work on, there are homeowners that look at roofing as a potential DIY project. Roofing really is a risk that is far too great to navigate without a professional.

The DIY Roofing Statistics

By this point after reviewing all the roofing injury statistics and costs associated with roofing accidents it is clear that this is really dangerous work, yet there are some homeowners that are willing to take on the risk.

Roofers go through a serious amount of training and still roofing is the fourth most dangerous work. According to the CDC 97% of all ladder falls at home have to do with a roofing project. Improper use of equipment, lack of training, and the absence of fall prevention equipment are all cited as contributing factors to injuries at home.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that each year there are 500,000 homeowners that are injured in ladder accidents. About 300 of those 500,000 patients that are treated for ladder injuries sustained at home are fatalities.

The World Health Organization released a study that put the United States as the world leader in ladder deaths. During the past decade the incidence of ladder-related deaths has tripled, no doubt, because the DIY approach in roof repair has surged over the last decade as well.

While the risk of ladder falls should be enough to drive homeowners to call a professional roofer, there is more. About 73 homeowners a year are electrocuted while on their roof. About 190 people each year show up in the emergency room to be treated for injuries sustained when they were struck by something on their roof. In 2019, 61 people died because they got “stuck” in their roof (evidently they fell through their roof while making repairs).

There are plenty of DIY projects that homeowners can and should do, but getting up on the roof, is not one of them. Without the proper training, safety equipment, and experience, DIY roof repair can be a death sentence.

What it Takes to Become a Roofer

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We talked about what type of dangerous work roofing is, and what makes it dangerous, now we will take a look at what it takes to become a roofer. Obviously, the first thing any roofer has to have is no fear of heights. While most ladder fall accidents occur from less than ten feet up on the ladder, there is still a long way to go to get to the top of the roof on most jobs.

A lack of fear of heights is not all you have to have to become a roofer. You have to be physically fit. You have to be able to scurry up and down a ladder sometimes carrying a tremendous amount of weight and do it all while staying completely balanced. You have to have strong upper body strength, lower body strength and a strong back helps too.

Physical strength and the right mental state are only part of the recipe that makes a good roofer. You also have to have engineering skills, know the materials that you are working with, and be able to quickly overcome obstacles on the job site.

A solid roofing system is one of the most important parts of any structure. Using the right materials, the right dimensions, and ensuring that you are delivering the right aesthetic are all things that a roofer must learn. A roofer is in a constant state of sharpening their skill set. They need to stay abreast of the latest roofing technologies and how to install those latest technologies.

There are well over 10 different types of roofing with each category having different styles and designs. A good roofer has to learn the different materials, how to install those materials, and what materials will best serve the client.

There is a lot to learn to become a roofer, and keep in mind, all the while they are doing some of the most dangerous work in construction. Becoming a roofer is not something that happens overnight it literally takes years to amass the skillset that is needed to work in this dangerous environment.

If you are a homeowner in need of roofing repairs, or a new roof, call a professional roofer. You do not want to become a statistic. Let the pros manage the dangerous work for you.