Winter Roofing Work – How to Ensure Safe Working on the Roof
Last week we brought you some advice on carrying out roofing work during the colder weather. With the temperatures more likely to plummet than rise at this time of the year, we have a few cold months ahead of us before temperatures begin to get warmer. Last week we looked at some of the extra risks that rear their heads as the thermometer reading drop – the heightened risk of trips and slips, the increased likelihood of avoiding site procedures and taking shortcuts to avoid the cold, and the errors of judgement which may arise as a result of it being difficult to concentrate due to the cold.
When it comes to hypothermia, this can have a serious negative effect on the ability of workers to ensure safe practice during extremely low temperatures. Here are some of the signs of hypothermia (which are particularly dangerous when undertaking roofing work or other work at height) to look out for in yourself and in others working onsite:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Loss of co-ordination
As we explained last week, there is no exact definition of what is deemed a reasonable temperature for working outdoors, but there are legal obligations to ensure that there is adequate protective clothing available to provide protection from adverse weather. Workers should also be made aware of the extra risks involved when working during cold weather so that they are fully informed and able to recognise and avoid the risks and alert supervisors to these.
When it comes to working on the roof, site managers and supervisors should carry out a daily risk assessment to make sure that it’s safe to work because conditions can change overnight’. A roof inspection should involve checking for signs of ice or slippery surfaces, especially during rainy or damp weather when rainwater can freeze so quickly. Decaying leaves bring with them an extra slip-hazard so these should be cleared and disposed of regularly.
During windy conditions the risks increase for roofing work. Site managers can easily check wind speeds with a hand-held anemometer and compare current speeds with the NFRC guidelines on roofing work in windy weather.
When we’ve experienced a few days of rain, any excess rainwater may cause problems, blocking pathways by making them muddy and slippery. Rain left on surfaces will freeze, which means that work platforms and walkways will need gritting regularly to prevent slips.
There should be a warm place available for workers to take a break and facilities for making hot drinks. During the colder weather, breaks could be scheduled to be shorter, but more often to limit the time workers are exposed to the cold and give them an opportunity to warm up their core temperature in between stints out on the roof. Comfort facilities should have warm water available for hand washing at all times.
Next week we’ll be looking at some of the measures individual workers can take to ensure their own safety and comfort when working on roofs during the winter months ahead. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on this.