Don’t Hit the Roof for Snow Removal

Near-record snow fall this yearcoupled with sustained temperatures below freezinghas resulted in significant snow accumulations in much of the US.

A relentless chore, and annoyance, for everyone responsible for keeping driveways, roads and walkways clear, this snow buildup on roofs has the potential for significant property loss. And, this latter potential has many of us eyeing our rooftopswhether at home or workdeciding whether we need to clear some of this snow before we get more snow or rain, or both. 

Once you’ve decided the “something has to be done” about that snow buildup on the roof, don’t just “Hit the Roof,” take the time to evaluate the following:

Risk Transfer

Can you afford to have a properly insured contractor perform the work? Roofing and maintenance contractors not only have the people and equipment to do this work, but they should carry insurance for property and personal damage while on your premises.  Although expensive, the cost for paying a professional to take care of the problem is always less than major property damage from a roof leak or the pain, suffering and cost that can go along with a serious fall injury.

Risk Control

Is a roof rake able to remove enough snow, while working at ground level, so that you don’t have to physically get on the roof? Even if you can’t get all of the snow with a roof rake, in many cases, removing as much snow as possible before getting on the roof will limit the possibility of falling, especially near eaves, rake edges and overhangs.

Do you have the ability to safely access the roof? Roof hatches are the best way to access a roof, but where these aren’t available, properly secured ladders that project at least 3 feet above the eaves are a must. When getting off, and onto, the ladder, have a specific plan to prevent the ladder from sliding at its top support and pay special attention to ensure the bottom can’t kick out, or slide.  

Once on the roof, how do you ensure that you, or another worker, do not fall off the edge? On low-slope roofs, tethers, safety monitors and warning lines can prevent workers from accidentally getting too close. However, on sloped roofs, an aerial lift, lifeline or other traditional fall arrest equipment may be the only way to be protected from sliding and falling off the roof. Be creative. A lifeline thrown over the ridge of a building and tied to a fixed object on the other side can provide an adequate anchor to prevent a slide down the roof and subsequent fall.

Establish a Policy

Lastly, make sure your workers understand the policy for snow and ice removal from a roof.  If you have transferred the risk – make sure the contact information is readily available and that the contractor has the necessary insurances to cover any damages. Also, train workers to ensure that they know they are not allowed to work on the roof.

If you decide to have your workers remove snow and ice, conduct basic safety training on roof raking, establishing safe access, and measures to ensure falls from the roof don’t occur.