WITH WEATHER WARNINGS FOR wind, snow and ice in place, and the UK still coping with the aftermath of Storm Ciara, roofers need to take extra care.
On top of the risk of slips and falls, spending a long time out in the cold can increase the risks of accidents and illness.
Wind can make rooftops more dangerous, especially for those dealing with single-ply or flat roofing.
Employers will also have to be prepared to call a halt to work completely if conditions get bad enough.
They should also make sure employees still on the job are dressed properly with good workwear for the cold.
With that in mind, here are Roofing Today’s top tips for staying safe in extreme weather, with some hints on how to get on with the job and when to call it a day.
Wind speeds above 23 mph or gusts of up to 35mph, is enough to stop the handling of slates, tiles, battens and felts on roofs, with the equivalent for rolls of felt being about 17mph, gusting to 26 mph or over.
You can use a handheld anemometer to check speeds at work height. The NFRC have guidelines on windy conditions here.
Although it might well go without saying, don’t work on snow or ice. Even if the mercury does rise above freezing or the sun does come out, there could well be plenty of patches that take a good while to defrost.
Employers should also be carrying out risk assessments on-site daily, paying attention to safe access and walkways at height as local conditions can be very different to those on the forecast.
Appropriate clothing isn’t just about comfort
Not only do cold hands work much slower than warm hands, spending too much time in the cold can lead to cold exposure.
Symptoms of cold exposure include heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, numbness, aching, severe fatigue, confusion, drowsiness and/or euphoria. If you experience this, seek immediate medical.
Cold weather also increases the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome, so keep your hands and arms warm when using vibratory equipment such as drills, nails guns and even hand tools, such as hammers, and take regular breaks. Gloves should be worn when it’s less than 4°C.
Take plenty of breaks in heated areas with hot drinks and consider job rotation to limit exposure to the cold.
Water resistant footwear with enhanced slip resistance is also a good idea, as is reflective PPE to improve visibility.
Keep up to date with conditions
Make sure you check the weather forecast so you can ensure you have the right equipment readily available, and also know when to stop if conditions are too harsh.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that work should not be carried out if weather conditions could endanger the health and safety of workers.
Mortar should not be used at below 2°C, so use dry fix wherever possible.
Similarly, when working on flat roofs, products like EDPM rubber membranes may not bond correctly at below 5°C, so be sure to check with the manufacturer.