What Are OSHA’s New Guidelines for Commercial Roof Inspections?

Commercial inspections

Is it safe to walk on the roof during a commercial inspection?

When you’re doing a commercial inspection, should you walk on the roof?

You know that it isn’t recommended for home inspections. Home roof inspections should be done by:

  • Visual examination from the ground with binoculars
  • Visual examination from the eaves via ladder
  • With a drone
  • Inspecting the attic

This is for your own safety as a home inspector — roofs can be steeply sloped and slippery, especially when wet. Further, even though most roofs are covered with asphalt shingles, those that aren’t — and especially those with slate tiles — can suffer damage from home inspectors or workers walking on them.

Commercial Roofs Are Flat. Right?

But what about commercial roofs? These are often flat, so it seems safe. In fact, many city residents of high-rise apartments enjoy going out on the roof to catch a cool breeze. Marlon Brando kept his pigeons on the roof in On the Waterfront. Many swanky apartment buildings have rooftop pools.

But these roofs have walls that protect those who walk on them from falling off. Although one would not expect a commercial inspector to be so unaware of their surroundings as to accidentally walk off the edge of the roof, there are other hazards. For instance, depending on how high up you are, a sudden gust of wind could easily blow you off the edge.

Even leaning a ladder against eaves is dangerous for that reason. Aluminum extension ladders are fairly light, and a strong wind can lift them away from the building. Roof anchors allow those who work on ladders — such as gutter cleaners or repair people — to tie their ladders to a stationary point, thereby increasing their safety.

Commercial inspections

Never do this. Always use safety devices when walking on a roof.

And no roof is completely flat — if it was, water would not drain off of it. They all have some degree of slope, and their flat appearance can be misleading.

Therefore, OSHA says no more walking on roofs without taking proper safety precautions.

OSHA Regulations for Commercial Roof Inspections

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set new guidelines for inspecting commercial roofs. These include using roof anchors and safety cords for roof inspections. If you choose to walk on a roof without these, you will be out of compliance with OSHA regulations and subject to fines.

Further, you could face insurance issues for not following regulations. If you do commercial inspections, contact your insurance company ahead of your next inspection to confirm your responsibilities and what coverages you have.

More Advice from OSHA

OSHA warns not to allow safety equipment to make you complacent. Use of alcohol or drugs (even over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines) can lead to accidents while walking on roofs. Even just being tired can lead to a slip or fall, so always stay sharp when walking on a roof.

In the cases in which falls are fatal, OSHA says 90 percent of the time no safety equipment was being used. In the other 10 percent of instances, safety equipment was not being used properly. Ladders must be secured correctly, scaffolding erected correctly and strict attention paid to skylights or any holes in the roof, all of which can lead to fatal falls.

An OSHA study found that 99 percent of these accidents could have been avoided with the proper use of safety equipment.

When you’re performing a commercial inspection, always be alert, use the right safety equipment and follow OSHA regulations. For more information about performing commercial inspections, check out our website today

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