OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a US government agency regulating workplace safety. If you are a roofing contractor in the United States, with at least one employee, you are required to abide by OSHA safety standards. If you work alone, you are not required to abide by OSHA standards. If you have no employees, but use other roofers as sub-contractors or independent contractors, you are not required to comply to OSHA standards. OSHA only regulates safety standards for companies with paid employees.
Roofing business owners who fail to comply with OSHA safety standards could face stiff fines. Fines may increase with continued failure to comply.
Here is a basic summary of some OSHA standards roofing company owners need to be aware of. *Note: This is only a summary, not a complete guide.
Fall protection must be provided for any employees working at a height of 6 feet or more from a lower level. Workers must be trained in fall protection by a competent person. Employers need to certify that workers have been trained.
Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)
A fall arrest system prevents a worker who falls from contacting a lower level. The system must be set to prevent a worker from falling more than 6 feet. The system must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 lbs. per worker and be installed by a qualified individual.
A fall restraint system is designed to prevent a worker from reaching the edge of a work area. It must be capable of supporting at least 3,000 lbs.
A guardrail system can be set up around the perimeter of the work area and around roof openings. The top rail must be 39 to 45 inches above the roof surface. The guardrail must be able to withstand 200 lbs of downward or outward force.
Other Protective Measures
On roofs that are 50 ft. wide or less, a competent person may be used as a safety monitor.
Warning lines can consist of ropes, wires, or chains at least 6 feet from the roof edge, and must be flagged at least every 6 feet.
Protective covers may be used over skylights and other roof openings. The cover must be capable of supporting at least twice the weight of employees and equipment and marked with the word “HOLE” or “COVER” as a warning.
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Ladders, Scaffolding, Lifts
Ladders must be regularly inspected for physical defects. Ladders must only be used on stable, level surfaces. A stable, level surface may need to be created to prevent sliding or shifting. The areas around the top and bottom of the ladder must be kept clear. The ladder should not be set up in a high traffic area unless secured and/or protected by a barrier.
Ladders must be set at a proper angle, and workers must not carry anything that may cause them to lose their balance.
Stepladder may only be used in the fully open position. Workers may not use the top or the top step as a step.
More on ladders here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3660.pdf
Only trained workers may install, alter, or dismantle scaffolding. Safe access must be provided. Each platform must be fully decked. Workers on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falls. A guardrail is acceptable.
Workers must be protected from falling objects such as tools and materials. The area below the scaffold should be barricaded and toeboards should be installed on the platform at heights above 10 feet.
Only authorized and trained workers should operate aerial lifts and forklifts.
Workers should be trained in the area of electrical safety. Overhead electrical lines pose a common risk for roofers.
An employer is responsible to ensure that the building and roof structure will maintain the weight of all workers and equipment.
Workers must be trained in the proper used of tools. Tools should include all necessary guards, shields, and safety attachments.
The following protective equipment should be used when operating certain tools and working under certain conditions:
Eye and Ear Protection, Gloves, Hard Hats, Work Boots, Highly Visible Clothing
Proper training and precautions are required when working with hot tar, open flames, torches, propane tanks, and flammable materials such as adhesives. Fire extinguishers should be within 50 feet.
Employers must be aware of, and protect their workers from the dangers of these and other hazardous substances:
Asbestos may be found in insulation, and roofing and siding product on older homes.
Lead-based paints may be found on wood and metal on older structures.
Silica may be found in concrete and cement roofing tiles.
Vapors and Fumes
Other contaminants may be released during demolition or come from work materials such as adhesives.
Employers are responsible to protect their employees from the hazards created by weather. This includes trauma related to heat and cold, and the dangers of inclement weather such as high winds, rain, snow, and ice.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
Worker must be trained in proper procedure in the event of an emergency. If no hospital or other medical assistance is available within reasonable distance from a jobsite, a person trained in first aid must be available, along with accessible first aid supplies.
More reference materials here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3755.pdf and https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy12/sh-23536-12/StudentReferenceMaterials.pdf