Install a Skylight 2 - Safety on the Roof

If you're installing a skylight, you'll eventually have to get up on the roof. Before you embark on a trip up your ladder, it's important that you know and observe the following safety precautions.

General Consideration and Tips

Keep these tips in mind every time you approach the roof.

  1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, rubber-soled shoes with good ankle support, and a hat for sun protection.
  2. Work on the roof only in dry, calm, mild weather A ladder or roof that's wet from rain, frost, or dew can be treacherously slick, and a sudden wind can knock you off balance. Keep grass cuttings and mud off your shoes, as well. Never get on the roof when lightning threatens.
  3. Once on the roof, be alert for slippery, brittle, or old roofing materials, and rotten decking you could put a foot through.
  4. Avoid contact with power lines connected to the house and with television antennas.
  5. To avoid straining your back, lift only lightweight loads and let your leg muscles do the work.
  6. Pace yourself and take frequent rests.
  7. Keep children and pets off the roof and away from the work area; they can be hurt by falling materials.
  8. Metal ladder brackets allow you to hook a ladder over the ridge of a house.
  9. Toe board jacks nailed to the roof support you and your materials with a 2 by 6 plank. (Use strong, straight-grained lumber no longer than 10 feet unless you support the middle with another jack.) The jacks have notches in them so they can be slipped off the nails. Secure jacks with nails long enough to penetrate sheathing and rafters.
  10. An angled seat board allows you to sit on a level surface while working. Angles on the sides of the board must match the slope of your roof.
  11. Scaffolding, useful if you're installing a large skylight, can be rented from tool supply companies.

Safety Procedures

The standard safety devices illustrated are available from tool rental companies.


Inspect your ladder for cracks or weaknesses in the rungs before you lean it against the house. The ladder should be long enough so that at least two rungs extend above the eaves. Place the base of the ladder on firm, level ground at a measured distance from the side of the house-that distance should equal a quarter of the vertical distance from the ground to the top rung.

Get on and off by stepping onto the center of the rung; use both hands.

If the ladder is to stand on a slick surface, install rubber safety shoes (they're available at home improvement centers).