Roof inspections are often not seen as
'construction work' within the context of the latest Regulations.
Therefore, requirements such as the provision of comprehensive
roof edge protection may not apply. An everyday example
of such a situation is the initial inspection of an aged
roof built before 1995, perhaps to prepare a tender for
re-roofing works. Other occupational health and safety
legislation, particularly relating to fragile roofs, may
be applicable but only so far as is reasonably practicable
This paper brings together simple inspection
rules and good advice under seven stages following a logical
sequence for carrying out a roof inspection:
|Arrival On Site
|Is there a need to actually go
onto the roof?
Could the roof survey be carried out using binoculars
and cameras with zoom lenses, especially if the roof
has a steep pitch?
|Establish the type of roof and
prepare a first assessment of risk, considering:
|i) Roof pitch.
ii) Weak and fragile materials (asbestos sheet/
woodwool slab/ rooflights/ corroded steel deck/
rotted timber boards).
iii) Edge protection.
v) Other hazards (gas releases, other works
vi) Provision of secure anchorages for attaching
full body safety harnesses.
|Consider means of access
Access could be via a permanent staircase, a fixed
ladder, a temporary ladder secured at the top, a tower
scaffold, a mobile platform or a mechanical hoist.
|Establish whether there is a Safety
Officer for the site
This is most likely to be the case on larger establishments.
Arrange to make contact on arrival at the site, especially
when further inspections are also required.
|Never work alone
Arrange for an escort, perhaps a member of the Clients'
site staff, a Contractor in attendance or another
member of your own firm.
|Contractor to be in attendance
When opening-up inspections are required, arrange
for suitable tradesmen to be in attendance to remove
and later reinstate elements of roofing and cladding
in a safe manner with the correct tools.
|Always take a positive approach
- safety comes first
Plan ahead and allow for safety provisions within
|Allow time for preparing to go
up onto the roof
Do not rush. Adopt a methodical unhurried approach.
|i) Footwear - flexible with
a good grip and non slip.
ii) Jacket/over trousers - if wet weather is
iii) A hat - to keep warm in the winter and
to protect from the sun in the summer.
iv) No loose ties or scarves - when working
near mechanical plant.
v) Safety helmet - essential on operational
|Take the correct equipment
|i) Daysack or holdall that
can be carried, while keeping both hands free.
ii) A strong nylon rope, to lift up larger items
iii) Small first aid kit - including Anthissan
for wasp/bee stings, and sun cream.
iv) Full body safety harness and lanyard.
|Make contact with the permanent
site staff and sign in
Establish whether there are any others working on
the roof and whether any special precautions are required.
Who will check if you have not signed off at the end
of the day?
Larger or more sophisticated occupiers may operate
Permit-to-Work Systems to regulate high risk activities
including roof work. The precautions which you take
should be no less than those specified on the permit
issued to you.
Be aware of the weather forecast, and where appropriate
re-arrange activities to suit. Consider wind, rain,
frost, ice hazards, extreme heat. Take particular
care in blustery conditions; a gentle breeze at ground
level is usually a strong breeze on the roof of a
|Ensure that you feel well in yourself
There is a good chance that you will be on the roof
for three or four hours. Therefore eat, drink and
use the cloakrooms before going up to carry out the
inspection. Consider taking a bar of chocolate to
keep you going on long inspections.
|Assess the composition/condition
of the roof soffit - is it safe to walk on?
Look for evidence of severely corroded decking or
notable deflections indicating that the structure
may be unsound. This inspection must be thorough in
order that all potentially weak or fragile areas are
identified before you go on the roof.
In the attempt to get closer to the roof soffit to
inspect an interesting feature, be aware of the height
to which you have climbed - keep your head.
|Do not leave the safe access route
Stick to the permanent walkways, or alternatively
to the prepared and approved access scaffolding.
|Wear a safety helmet
This is mandatory on operational construction sites.
They must also be worn where there is a risk of falling
materials or low head hazards such as scaffolding.
|Check the condition and
adequacy of the ladder/platform/hoist
|i) Is it properly footed?
ii) Is it at the correct angle?
iii) Is it restrained at the top?
iv) Does it project at least 1.05m above the
|Reduce the number of times you
actually have to go up onto the roof to a minimum
Climbing up onto the roof and subsequently coming
down is often the most dangerous part of the inspection.
Therefore it makes sense to reduce the number of times
to a minimum by planning ahead.
|Keep both hands free when climbing
Use a back pack or satchel.
|Lift heavy pieces of equipment
up with a rope
|Before moving off from the
access point, identify the major hazards by
sight and agree these with others present. Consider:
|i) Fragile areas.
ii) Edge protection.
iii) Slippery surfaces.
iv) Weather conditions.
v) Other contractors working.
Above fragile areas, ensure that suitable protection
is in place before you walk on or pass near.
|Always Step Forwards, Never Backwards.
|Do not run. Walk at a steady pace.
|There must be a minimum of two
people on the roof at any one time.
|Keep an eye on your partner, and
warn him/her of impending dangers.
Generally stay at least 2m away from an unprotected
edge. When there is a need to inspect the roof edge
wear a full body safety harness when there is a secure
attachment point. If not take off any back pack ,
approach with caution, crouch down keeping your body
weight away from the edge, then move away directly
Before removing any elements of roofing and cladding,
ensure that the structure will remain stable and secure.
|When opening up a roof construction
be aware that the opening is effectively an unprotected
edge with potentially a long fall to the floor below.
When inspecting the inside of louvres and other mechanical
devices, ensure that there is no risk of them being
accidentally switched on.
|Every 15 minutes stop and remind
one self of the major hazards
Have any factors changed and is it safe to continue?
|Check that there are no loose
materials left on the roof that may blow off and
strike somebody below.
|Check that the roof is left in
a watertight condition.
This will ensure that others will not have to go back
onto the roof unnecessarily.
|Check that there are no other
people left on the roof prior to removing temporary
ladders/blocking off access doors.
|Ensure that all means of access
are secure to prevent unauthorised people going
up onto the roof.
|Sign off with permanent staff
on site, and follow permit to work protocol was
issued to you.
|Report any dangerous hazards that
are in need of urgent attention, and confirm these
reports and agreed corrective actions by letter following
return to the office.
notes were not written to be prescriptive, but rather
are intended to promote safety awareness in everyday practice.
I am sure that there is more good advice which other experienced
roofing professionals may wish to share. Alternatively,
not all of these rules may be appropriate, considering
the wide variety of construction traditions and practices.
What is important is that we regularly remind ourselves
of the dangers we face while inspecting roofs, which are
often in an unknown condition.
By taking a positive approach to the adoption
of a safe system of work for short-term roof inspections,
we can reduce the number of tragic accidents such as the
untimely loss of a fellow roofing professional.
© Keith Roberts, 1996
First published in Roofing Consultants
Institute 'Interface' (USA), January 1996
Reprinted in Roofing Cladding Insulation, March 1998
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