Safety Concerns For New Roofs

Probably one of the most dangerous construction jobs is that of the roofer. Working in high places on a sometimes slippery roof, they are often subjected to windy conditions and the forces of nature. The roofing industry and local governments are aware of this, and have set standards and good practices in place to insure both the safety of the roofer and the homeowner. These regulations are made from years of experience in the industry. Knowing the codes and regulations for your specific locale is of the utmost importance to you. Here, we discuss rules and regulations, and common sense knowledge for those who are concerned about safety in a roofing project.

The National Roofing Contractors Association

The NRCA is an organization that provides information and guidelines for the roofing industry. They provide services for consumers, including advisory bulletins, guidelines for selecting a roofing contractor, an online search for a contractor and a roofing qualification statement form. In addition, they have a technical database to help consumers find out just about anything they need to know about roofing and the industry. Their mission is to help homeowners and building owners make informed decisions about maintaining or replacing their roof system. It is a good idea to check them out when considering a roofing project. One of their biggest recommendations is to not buy roofing materials from one source, and then hire outside help to have the roof installed. Because roofs today are so complex, a roofer should know everything about the materials he will use as he possibly can. If a crew is hired to install materials that they are unfamiliar with, then accidents can happen because the roofers are not familiar with the roofing materials used.

Safety by Locale

Each area of the country has different rules for safety issues, so it would be impossible to list them all here. Across the board, however, they are pretty much standard. We will use California for our example of state and local codes concerning roofing.

California Codes and Safety Practices

California is very strict on roofing codes, especially when it comes to the type of roofing material used. The requirements in California exceed the requirement of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) and the International Building Code (IBC). It is notable that many local jurisdictions have requirements for roofing that exceed general requirements. Here are some of those requirements, taken from the California Health and Safety Board:

  • Every new roof will meet at the minimum a Class C
    rating. This minimum requirement deals with
    effectiveness against light fire exposure. A class C roof
    covering is designed to withstand exposure to a
    temperature of 1300 degrees Fahrenheit for a period
    of three minutes.
  • Roofs in a designated high fire risk zone must be at
    least a Class B roof. A Class B roof must be effective
    against moderate fire exposure. Under such exposure it is
    not readily flammable. It must be able to withstand a
    temperature of 1400 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 6
  • A Class A roof is required in areas that are designated
    as "Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones." The Fire
    Marshal's requirements are in effect here. A Class A
    roof must be effective against severe fire exposure.
    It must withstand a temperature of 1400 degrees
    Fahrenheit for a period of 30 minutes.

The California codes are typical of most every locale, with the exception that they usually exceed minimum requirements because of the risk of fire being so high in that state. California has very stringent laws regarding wooden roofing materials because of the threat of wildfires.

Roofer Safety

Roofers should follow exacting safety standards when working on a roof. The use of roof brackets on an especially steep roof is recommended. These brackets are readily available at hardware store. The brackets are screwed into the roof, and a plank is placed on the brackets to provide a safe working place for the roofer.

The ultimate in safety for working on a roof is a safety harness. Never work on a roof with just attaching a rope to your belt. This safety harness is high tech, and prevents a lot of accidents. The harness is a total system that features a harness, lanyard, rope-grab, rope and roof anchor. The anchor is attached to the peak of the roof, and must be attached carefully so that they are fastened to roof joist, not just sheathing and shingles.

The job of roofing a home or office building is a dangerous one. Many times the workers are poorly trained or inexperienced on a roof. Always be very specific when hiring a contractor to make sure he is certified and that his crew is experienced. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.