February 17, 2017
With the recent heavy snowfalls in New Brunswick,
WorkSafeNB is reminding workers and employers to be careful when
“Removing snow from a roof can pose a number of hazards,” said
Eric Brideau, WorkSafeNB's assistant director of compliance. “And
although it can be dangerous, it’s something that must be done
since not removing it can be even more dangerous,” he said. “Snow
loads can cause roof collapse and, if the roof is sloped, can fall
onto pedestrians and vehicles below.”
Although not much can be done to make the task of snow removal
less tedious, Brideau said following some basic safety tips can at
least make it safer.
“Since the greatest hazard faced in removing snow from roofs is
the risk of falling, it’s important that employers provide, and
employees continually use a fall protection system. Whatever the
season, fall protection is paramount,” Brideau said.
Ensuring that loads don't accumulate is
also a requirement under New Brunswick's Occupational
Health and Safety Act.
To reduce the chance of a roof collapse, it’s important to know
your roof’s load limit. If you don’t know the load limit, have a
civil or structural engineer inspect it. The engineer can
also identify any deficiencies for repair, Brideau said.
Once it’s been determined that the roof is sound, and that snow
needs to be removed, ensure that employees who will be
clearing the snow are properly trained and are aware of any hazards
and risks. Ensure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
is supplied and used. Drop areas shall be marked on the ground
to prevent access. If there are no knowledgeable and experienced
employees to do the job, hire professionals and ensure they have
WorkSafeNB coverage. Remember – whether workers are insured or not,
homeowners have a responsibility to ensure they use fall
Snow should be cleared in a cross direction to the roof trusses,
Brideau said. “This will reduce the stress on all the trusses at
the same time, rather than reducing stress from only one truss.”
Drifted snow should be removed first. (On multi-level roofs, this
will be on the lower roofs). “And it’s extremely important to
remove snow evenly from both sides of the roof to avoid
concentrating a load in one area. Failure to follow these steps
could cause enough stress to the roof to cause it to collapse.
Completely remove the snow from the roof as you clear it.” Brideau
also advises caution when removing snow from one section to avoid
travelling over and compacting snow on adjacent sections.
If using mechanized equipment on the roof, ensure the employee is
familiar with the manufacturers’ instructions for safe use, and
that it is not used within 4.5 metres (15 feet) of the roof
edge (only allowed on a roof with pitch of three in 12 or less). Do
not use mechanized equipment that can damage the roof membrane.
Since metal shovels and ice picks can also damage the roof
membrane, avoid them, and use plastic instead.
Learn more about fall protection from the WorkSafeNB OHS Guide to
Legislation (NB OHS Guide). Download the app from the
Apple Store or Google Play, depending on your mobile device.
For more information, consult the following resources:
Health and Safety Act
a Residential Construction or Renovation Project? Don't Forget
to Build in Safety!
Home Reno FAQ