Time for Roofing Companies to Recognize Safety Value of Cold-Applied Systems

Dean Grady, Sika

Roofing can be an incredibly precarious profession, says Dean Grady, Product Manager at Sika. One in five deaths in construction work involves roof projects, whether in the course of carrying out specialist work or simple maintenance. A roof’s height and potential fragility creates an immediate risk factor, which is increased by the use of naked flame processes applied during installation or maintenance.

To help reduce the risks associated with roof fires through naked flame applications used to dry-out or install torch-on membranes, the NFRC launched the Safe2Torch campaign. Roofing contractors across the UK are being asked to support the initiative which offers a host of best practice guidelines designed to minimise the threat of roof fires and reduce the risk to life and property.

Companies which pledge their support to the campaign indicate they have read and understood the guidance and are committed to promoting and implementing the campaign throughout their organisation. This provides clients with the assurance that their contractor/manufacturer has planned their roof works in accordance with safety advice outlined in the Safe2Torch campaign.

Safety points

Included within the Safe2Torch campaign is a section focusing on pre-hot works checks that should be carried out to eliminate potential hazards associated with the use of gas torches. These include:

  • Ensuring any combustible materials such as dry leaves, flammable liquids, wood, paper, etc, are removed from the working area
  • Assessing the roofing substrate, as under no circumstances should a torch be applied direct to a timber-based deck or upstand
  • Avoiding naked flame or high heat contact with foam or fibreboard combustible fillers found in expansion joints
  • Selecting a torch-free product for abutments with open cavities or open perpends
  • Avoiding using naked flames near fixed timber, plastic fascia or soffits

Although Sika specialises in roofing products that eliminate the use of a naked flame applications, the company is urging contractors throughout the industry to support the Safe2Torch campaign in recognition that the health and safety of employees within our sector should be the number one priority of manufacturers and contractors alike.

Ultimately, the way to mitigate issues with roofing naked flame works is to select a safer installation system. This will not only improve safety, it can help reduce installation time and on-site costs. Sika supplies a wide range of products which are rapid and simple to install for a wide range of flat roof applications.


Cold applied options

There are safer alternatives to products applied with naked flames such as self-adhesive vapour control layers and waterproofing membranes and cold applied adhesives. It is to these type of products that the industry should be looking. Consigning torched products to history may also have a positive impact on insurance premiums.

The NFRC is to be applauded for its Safe2Torch initiative; any campaign which seeks to make the industry safer deserves our utmost attention and respect. Bituminous systems have been around for centuries, and because ‘torch-on’ is tried-and-tested with contractors reluctant to change their application method, it’s likely hot-working practices will continue for years to come. There is an alternative, however, and with on-site safety quite rightly a major concern within the industry, perhaps it’s time roofing companies warmed to the idea of systems without hot works.

For more on the Safe2Torch campaign, contact: safe2torch@nfrc.co.uk.



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