Why Roofing is One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Report roofing is the 4th most dangerous profession in America. A close look at this job and the many fatal things that can happen while installing a roof becomes the task of a construction accident attorney if there is an accident. In cases of accidents, 34% of these can become fatalities.
Unfortunately, many people believe that anyone can take off or put on a roof because, from the ground, it looks like a simple project. There is a large, flat, surface with only a few kinds of materials like wood, asphalt shingles, or asphalt paper, and all you need is a hammer and some nails and a nice sunny day. Most people are very wrong to assume this, but every day, someone will attempt this job who is placing themselves at risk. Roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation and for very good reasons. That is why only qualified professionals should do the job.
The Risk of Falling
The very nature of a roof is that it is on top of a structure to provide protection from the elements and to add symmetry to the look of the structure. As a result, there is an inherent requirement that a roofing professional be both physically able to complete the job, and intellectually competent to understand the complexity and scope of the task.
The professional roofer will be aware of the condition of the roof as well as the height. A roof is being repaired because there are problems with the roof. These problems may be deeper than just the shingle or material on the surface. There should be an evaluation of whether the roof is structurally sound and that the roof tresses are also adequate. There is also the need to check the underlayment of the roof and to determine whether the roof may bow on a hot day. Any of these conditions could lead to a fall if the roof is uneven or actually moves during the work day.
Sight and the concept of depth perception are clearly connected to falling from a roof. The angle of the roof peak and the pitch of the roof can confuse or fool even the most experienced roofer, and what can follow is a loss of balance or a foothold. Even a plumbing vent pipe or exhaust fan cover can adversely affect vision and balance. In this case, a fall is imminent unless there are protective measures in place and can be fatal even after the injuries are treated. A construction accident attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will take all of these situations into consideration when analyzing an accident.
Sight and depth perception also ties into the idea of edge awareness. Many times, a worker will be so involved with nailing shingles or working with a heavy roofing material that they lose track of where the edge of the roof is. In some other cases, fatigue, lack of good hydration, and even malnutrition can lead to confusion while on the roof. If there are no safety measures in place, a fall could occur.
Poor sight caused by a split-level roof, chimneys, or other obstruction can also cause a worker to lose balance or mishandle a piece of equipment. For instance, a running hand saw combined with a fall from one roof level to another can be very dangerous to the worker and others around him. Just the idea of falling equipment is enough to take pains to know where the roof edges and other obstructions are located.
Another circumstance that may lead to falls is the existence of a hole in the roof. This hole could be caused by wind damage or storm damage, or it could be the result of the removal or replacement of a skylight. Most falls through holes occur on commercial buildings because of the expanse of the roofs, and the need for pipes and vents to protrude from the top of the building. If the edges of the hole are not clearly marked with red paint or safety tape, then a busy worker can accidentally fall through the open hole, causing an injury or even death.
In most cases, the roofer will have to use one or more ladders to reach the roof and carry material from the ground. If the ladder is not secured correctly or the feet of the ladder are not set properly, then there can be a fall, and there can also be heavy material falling to the ground below. In most cases, the ladders are tied to the structure to avoid an accident with a falling ladder, and this precaution should always be implemented. However, rain causing a slippery ladder, and ice or snow if there is work going on in the winter can also result in a roofer sliding down a ladder or falling off.
Power lines carrying many volts of electricity can be attached to the structure or pass overhead if the house or building is in a crowded neighborhood or commercial district. According to OSHA reports, 52% of all electrical accidents caused by contact with electricity are fatal. This would probably include the use of power tools and also weather conditions that may lead to instances of sudden storms and heavy rain or even lightning. There are about six deaths per year due to workers being around electricity.
There are many different kinds of roofing tools that need to be used to complete a roofing project successfully. Many professional roofers, as well as do-it-yourself roofers, will use a nail gun to drive the nails into the roof. With a nail gun, the worker can usually operate the tool with only one hand, leaving the other hand to support himself on the roof. If the worker is using a hammer and nail, it takes two hands – one to hold the nail and the other to drive the nail. An average roof gun will be able to handle at least 100 nails per minute, and although this is very efficient, it can also cause accidents by dropping the gun from a height, pointing the gun at an unsuspecting co-worker, or just losing balance and possibly self-inflicting the body with a nail.
In order to operate a pneumatic nail gun, it is necessary to have an air compressor. The roofer needs to be careful that the size of the compressor is big enough to handle the number of nail guns being used, and that the specifications for the compressor match the type of nail gun. Since this approach deals with the air volume and the amount of compressed air, care should be taken to ensure that this machinery is operated correctly. Out of control, compressed air can cause havoc on the work site.
If work is being done on a commercial building and there is an asphalt heating system to prepare the asphalt for the building roof surface, then this is another piece of machinery that can be dangerous if not properly maintained and operated. This type of operation can also produce toxic chemicals that can cause harmful gases and even fainting if a worker is exposed.
Another tool that roofers always need are very sharp roofing knives and roofing hook blades. These are designed for use with razor blades and need to be kept sharp for the most efficient use. Some knives are retractable while others are not. Leaving these knives laying around the work site or dangling on the edge of a roof edge could lead to serious accidents.
A roofing shovel is another useful tool in that it is designed to remove shingles and nails from the old roof to prepare a smooth and nail free surface for the new roof. These are sturdy inflexible shovels that have teeth on the edges for grabbing and removing material. If one of these shovels drops from the roof or remains in the hands of a person falling from a roof, there could be serious injuries.
Smaller tools like roofing hatchets, roofing rippers, and pneumatic metal cutters are hand held and can cause a great deal of harm if left in the wrong place or dropped. One thing that many inexperienced roofers overlook is the type of shoes they wear. An experienced roofer will wear no-slip work boots to protect from falling.
If there is an accident from the improper use of a tool or the use of a tool in a careless way, our construction accident attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will investigate the details of the accident and the circumstances behind it. Many times, our attorneys know more about these tools than some of the people who use them because we have handled similar cases and have gathered information through our investigations.
Weather Related Accidents
There are many factors when the weather is related to an accident. Sometimes the workers will start early in the morning when it is cool, and after the sun gets higher in the sky, the roof can change shape and actually bow, leading to tripping and falls. Storms in the summer bringing heavy rains, thunder, and lightning, and severe winds pose an immediate danger for workers on the roof or below the roof. There could be falls or loose material or equipment endangering the work area; if the work is being done in the winter, there is the threat of ice in unsuspecting places as well as plies of snow that were not removed properly. The roof can be slippery at all times, and the ladders can also be a hazard if caution is not taken.
Proper Training and the Use of Proper Fall Equipment
The apprenticeship program is the proven way to ensure safety in the workplace for the professional roofer. These programs, usually sponsored by Union organizations, offers training for commercial and residential roofing jobs. In Michigan, the Detroit Roofers and Water proofers Training Center provides complete training programs for both the roofers and the management of roofing companies.
Proper Fall Equipment can be purchased in packages and includes such items as a full-body harness, a roof anchor, a vertical lifeline, and a rope grab/lanyard combo. Most of these kits are OSHA approved and come in a portable container. However, a professional worker should be cautious when choosing the type of kit for their particular job. Sometimes harnesses, if cheaply made, can become tangled or unsafe if used more than once or twice. A loose harness or tangled rope could lead to an accident. A construction accident attorney at our law firm will always investigate any equipment failures if there is a claim.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Roofing is the 4th most dangerous profession in the United States. In 34% of the accidents, falling is the factor, but falling from a one-story ranch can be a lot different than falling from a three-story house. The results can be a severe injury. Even when it comes to the correct use of a ladder, the placement of the ladder, and the location of electric lines in relation to the work site, there is ample opportunity for miscalculations and mistakes.
No matter the cause or the nature of the roofing accident, an injured worker, is entitled to compensation. A construction worker injured on the job can sue the employer for work-related injuries. A third party, such as a manufacturer of a defective tool or safety equipment can be liable for negligence.
Even if the worker is injured to carelessness while on the job, they are entitled to Worker’s Compensation based on weekly earnings and the severity of the injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a roofing accident, please contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529) for a no obligation case evaluation. Our team is very knowledgeable about all aspects of claims resulting from roofing accidents. Partner, Eileen Kroll is also a registered nurse and can assist you in getting any benefits you have coming as a result of a claim. Best of all, our law firm never charges a fee unless we win your case.