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Safe snow removal from rooftops

February 17, 2017

With the recent heavy snowfalls in New Brunswick, WorkSafeNB is reminding workers and employers to be careful when clearing rooftops.

“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.

Preparation
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 protection.

Removal
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:
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Planning a Residential Construction or Renovation Project? Don't Forget to Build in Safety!
Home Reno FAQ
Roofing Safety Guidelines 

 

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506 632-2223
communications@ws-ts.nb.ca






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