Rooftop snow removal is often necessary to prevent roof overloading and collapsing and can be a beneficial add-on service for snow & ice contracts, but it carries its own specific safety risks for workers in high and sometimes unstable conditions. Although it can be risky, a detailed operational plan, well-trained workers and proper safety precautions can greatly decrease the risk and keep employees safe while performing this important service.
Preparing for rooftop snow removal
Before ever setting foot on a rooftop, snow professionals should take the following steps to ensure safe and effective rooftop snow removal:
- Insurance. Double check your insurance policy to make sure it includes this type of service. Verify that your workers are covered as well as any damage to the roof system that may occur.
- Review roof structure & identify hazards. Determine the type of system on the roof (flat, rolled, floating, rubber, asphalt, etc.). Locate main support beams and load bearing walls on the system. Mark any potential hazards that could be covered by snow (skylights, drains, vents, etc.).
- Weight analysis. Determine the maximum load limits of the roof (a building engineer or manager can get this information) and how they compare with the estimated total weight of snow, snow-removal equipment and workers on the roof.
- Create a detailed operation plan. If possible, it is best to review the roof structure plans and photos of current snow load with an engineer. Determine what the best plan of action is and where you can roll the snow without risking injury to your workers or to anyone on the ground during snow removal operations.
- Safety & training for workers. Make sure to understand and utilize OSHA safety rules for rooftop work. Determine what tools, equipment and clothing employees will need while performing the work, and what type of training is necessary before they start.
Stay safe while performing the work
The following safety tips can help workers stay safe while performing rooftop snow removal:
- Remove the snow uniformly and avoid making piles to avoid any collapses.
- Review OSHA standards for fall protection equipment – this can include personal fall arrest systems (harness & connector attached to roof) or guardrails. There should also be a detailed plan in place for rescuing fallen workers.
- Review OSHA standards for using ladders and lifts safely. Make sure all workers know a safe and uniform route for getting up and down from a roof, which can help minimize the risk of falling. Ladders should be placed at a correct angle and have secure footing. Lifts should be used properly according to operating instructions.
- Take care in moving equipment for snow removal onto a rooftop, and operate equipment at slower speeds due to slippery roof conditions. Follow specific equipment operation instructions, especially in regards to the edges of buildings.
- Be aware of any power lines that may be near the rooftop being worked on. Maintain a distance of 10 feet from any power line.
- Use plastic shovels vs. metal for rooftop snow removal.
- Have a designated safety worker on the ground at all times during rooftop snow removal and mark off a designated safety area to protect people on the ground.
With proper planning, equipment and safety precautions, rooftop snow removal can be performed safely and effectively. Visit the following resources for more information:
- For safety tips on rooftop snow removal, view the OSHA hazard alert here.
- For more information on fall protection, visit here.
- For more on rooftop snow removal, view the webinar “Specialty Services: Managing Parking Decks & Rooftop Snow Removal” on SIMA’s Training Center here.
View all 2016 Snow Safety week articles and content here.