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July 01, 2014
OSHA says Denver contractors are falling down on fall protection

Image credit: OSHA

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OSHA is responding to concerns about unsafe work practices among roofers in the Denver area. What’s going on there, and how can you make sure your construction workers aren’t at risk?

Residential roofers in Denver and area communities including Pueblo and Colorado Springs are being cited in record numbers. The problem, says OSHA, is failure to provide necessary fall prevention equipment and training. OSHA is teaming up with the Colorado Roofing Association, the Better Business Bureau, and other organizations to address the situation.

OSHA area director David Nelson explained: “In the past six months, we have received 63 complaints related to unsafe work practices, and this is the beginning of the roofing season.” He emphasizes that the cost of providing fall prevention equipment is nominal compared with the cost of a loss of life and livelihood.

OSHA and its partners are advising consumers that they can find tips for hiring reputable contractors on the website of the Colorado Roofing Association, www.coloradoroofing.org. The OSHA website, www.osha.gov, offers information on contractors that have been cited for safety and health violations. Nelson says consumers should ask contractors if their installers are employees or subcontractors, and what kind of fall protection will be used. “Hold your contractors accountable,” he advises. “The last thing a consumer wants is someone falling, especially on their property.”

More than a third of fall fatalities in residential construction involve roofs

Workers replacing roofs are at risk for permanent injury or death from falls. According to OSHA, even experienced roofers are exposed to unpredictable fall hazards. Causes include uneven sheathing, sudden gusts of wind, loose roofing materials, and surfaces that become slick when wet.

Employers are required to provide a training program for all workers who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable workers to recognize the hazards and train them in procedures to minimize them.

What else should you do to keep your workers from roof falls?

Employers must provide roofers with fall protection equipment that meets OSHA requirements when they work 6 feet or more above a lower level.

Before a job begins, focus on identifying fall protection needs. Survey the roof to determine if there are pre-installed anchorages. If not, OSHA says you should plan immediately to identify protection systems.

Other considerations for a safe construction site:

  • Guard against falls through skylights or other roof openings by using a guardrail system, personal fall arrest system, or a protective cover.
  • Insist that employees wear appropriate footwear on any construction site, especially during roof demolition. A nail or shingle-removal injury can cause a worker to lose concentration and fall.
  • Make sure workers pay particular attention to air hoses and power cords used for nail guns and other electrical equipment. If a worker steps on a hose or cord, a fall is likely.
  • Stage materials so that workers on the roof have quick and safe access to them.
  • During the demolition phase, protect workers on the ground from falling debris by controlling how the debris leaves the roof.
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