OSHA Roofing Contractor Safety Standards Compliance Summary

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

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.

Fall Restraint System

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.

Guardrail System

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

Safety Monitor

On roofs that are 50 ft. wide or less, a competent person may be used as a safety monitor.

Warning Lines

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.

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:


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.

Electrical Safety

Workers should be trained in the area of electrical safety.  Overhead electrical lines pose a common risk for roofers.

Building Integrity

An employer is responsible to ensure that the building and roof structure will maintain the weight of all workers and equipment.

Tool Safety

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

Roofing Operations

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.

Hazardous Substances

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.

Weather Conditions

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: and



Roofer Dies after falling in Hot Tar Kettle

St. Louis, MO. – (this is an update from this original post). Roofer Daniel Madden, 66, has died after being in a coma since August 6, due to falling in a hot tar kettle.  Madden was given a military honors.  Madden was a longtime roofer and Army Ranger veteran.  He was given a military funeral and buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.   More here.

The Best Roofing Tools

Here is a small list of some of what The Roofer’s Helper’s considers the best roofing tools:

The Stortz Medium Duty Slate Ripper

Slate Ripper

My Stortz slate ripper has lasted over twenty years.  It is a great tool not only for slate repair, but also for shingle repair and tile repair.  I can’t see any roofer effectively removing slate without one of these.  I have also used the heavy duty version, but I prefer the medium duty.

The Stortz Slate Cutter

slate cutter

This Stortz slate cutter is very well built and makes cutting slate a breeze.  It also has a built in punch that works great even for thicker slates.


Bostitch Twin Blade Utility Knife

bostitch dual blade knife

I love being able to to have both a straight blade and a hook blade available for instant use in the same knife.  My knife has lasted almost 5 years so far with no issues.

Malco A1 Scratch Awl


This scratch awl by Malco is very sturdy, and perfect for punching holes in slate.  I also use it to pre-punch a hole in roof deck when the wood is so hard, the nails are bending.  The bright orange color is helpful when I drop the awl off of the roof and have to find it in the bushes.

The Shingle Eater


I am not a fan of asphalt shingle roof tear-offs, but when I have to do one, I really prefer The Shingle Eater.  I have tried a number of other shingle removal tools, but I like the strength and leverage I get with The Shingle Eater.

Foam Cushion (any brand)


A foam cushion, either purchased new, or recycled out of an old couch, is a great “tool” for roof repairs.  It is especially helpful on steeper sloped asphalt shingle roofs.  It is amazing how well the foam grips into the shingles.  Foam cushions have allowed me to safely work on slopes I would not normally be able to work on.  A few added benefits are the cushion protecting the roof from scuffing, and providing extra comfort.

Roofer Jailed After Punching Elderly Female Church Officer

Billingham, UK.  A roofer, John Butler punched back after he was slapped by a 69 year old female church officer.   The elderly woman sustained skull injuries and required dentures due to fractures on her front teeth.  Butler was sentenced to 15 months in jail.  The initial incident started over an argument regarding a roof Butler had installed at the St. Cuthbert’s Church in Billingham.  More here.

Roofing Business Offers Free AR-15 Gun To Customers

Denver, CO.  A roofing company is giving away free guns as a home improvement promotion.  James Webb, owner of Weatherproof Roofing in Denver, Colorado is offering the choice of a free AR-15 gun, a handgun, shotgun or $500 gift certificate with every complete roof or exterior job according to the company website.  The unique promotion is called “Get a Roof, Get a Gun!”.  More here.