Stay safe when removing snow from rooftops

February 3, 2015

Excessive snow loads on roofs may cause collapses and, moreover, create a health and safety risk to passersby from falling snow and ice.

Ensuring that loads don’t accumulate to unsafe levels is a requirement under New Brunswick’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

WorkSafeNB reminds employers, workers and homeowners to take proper precautions to ensure the safety of those who remove snow from rooftops.

“First, it’s important to know your roof’s load limit,” said Richard Blais, director of compliance and regulatory review with WorkSafeNB. “If you don’t know the load limit, have a civil or structural engineer inspect the roof. The engineer may identify any deficiencies that need repair,” Blais said.

If it’s safe for a person to work from the roof, Blais recommends several precautions. “Since the greatest hazard faced in removing snow from roofs is the risk of falling, it’s critical to use a fall protection system,” he said.

“Employees who will be clearing the snow should be properly trained and understand the fall protection system. Ensure appropriate personal protective equipment is supplied and used. Drop areas must be marked on the ground to prevent access by pedestrians below,” Blais said.

“A homeowner or employer may also hire professionals and ensure these have WorkSafeNB coverage,” Blais added. Remember – whether workers are insured or not, homeowners and business owners are responsible to ensure the worker uses fall protection.

“Snow should be cleared in a cross direction to the roof trusses,” Blais said. “This will reduce the stress on all the trusses at the same time.” Drifted snow should be removed first. (On multi-level roofs, this will be on the lower roofs).

“It’s important to remove snow evenly from both sides of the roof to avoid concentrating a load in one area,” Blais added. “Completely remove the snow from the roof as you clear it, and avoid compacting snow as you walk on unworked areas.”

If using mechanized equipment on the roof, ensure the employee is familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use, and that it is not used within three metres of the roof edge (only allowed on roofs with a pitch of three in 12 or less).

Planning and discussing the work beforehand is key to identifying hazards and raising awareness between owners, employers and employees.  For more information or to report concerns, call 1 800 999-9775 or 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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