Roof Safety: A MUST Read Before Getting Up On Your Roof

If you ever need to get up on your roof, one thing I can’t emphasise enough is to ALWAYS take every safety precaution you can. Below are some basic roof safety rules and guidelines that I follow to help ensure my safety when on the roof.

A man climbing on to his roof

Check the weather…

check weather before getting on roof
Check weather to ensure no rain is approaching

If there is a chance of rain, or it has rained recently and the roof is wet then do not get on your roof. Getting up on a wet roof equals a trip to the hospital so please, if there has been any rain of late or it is due to rain avoid getting up on the roof at all costs.

Those situated in cooler climates may even experience ice or snow forming on their roofs, which if this is the case then again stay off your roof.  Even if it’s a sunny day though the winds are strong, then once again I would recommend staying off your roof until it’s a calm day with much more favourable conditions.

If the weather is bad, and you have something urgent that needs fixing on the roof then always contact a roofing professional who will do the job for you.

Always wear the right footwear

Flat sole for walking on the roof

In Australia, colourbond is a popular choice of roofing, though unfortunately, metal sheets can also be one of the most slippery materials out there.  

Therefore, before you jump on the ladder to get up on the roof, ensure you always have the right type of roofing shoes on. And remember, before you get on the ladder always wipe the soles of your shoes down!

See also: Best Roofing Shoes to use in Australia

Have a roofing tool belt

I’ve found a key factor to remaining safe on the roof is ensuring your hands are free, especially when you have to climb up and down a ladder.  

Therefore I highly recommend wearing a roofing tool belt to carry any of the tools and materials you may need for the job.  Roofing tool belts these days are great and have so many compartments allowing you to carry your hand tools, screws, rivets and to even hang your drill off.

Be sun safe and keep hydrated!

In Australia, you’ll be surprised how hot it can get on roofs, especially metal zincalume roofs.  During mid-summer, especially in Australia, the sun reflecting off a metal roof directly into your face and body can cause sunburn and dehydration pretty quickly.  

Therefore, if you’re planning to spend a fair bit of time up on the roof ensure you apply plenty of sunscreen, and have SunSmart clothing, sunnies, and a hat.

Set the ladder up correctly

Setting up a ladder
Ensure you setup your ladder correctly

A key aspect of roof safety is ensuring you have the right ladder for the job and you know how to set up and use a ladder correctly and safely.

See also: How to safely use a ladder

Is there a roof harness anchor point on your roof?

If your roof has a connection or tie-down point which will allow you to utilise a roof harness then this is something you should consider as roof safety harnesses are a fantastic way to reduce the chance of a fall.

Check your shoes before getting onto a roof

Before you step onto a ladder to get up on the roof, always check and wipe the bottom of your shoes.  This is very important to ensure there is no dirt or sand that could cause you to slip.

Wet sand stuck to the bottom of your shoes can be lethal, especially on a metal roof as when you step up onto the roof you can instantly lose your grip.

In my early days as a roof plumber, this used to always catch me out, especially in the winter months when there was dew on the ground making the sand slightly wet and sticky.

Be careful when walking on the roof

When you’re up on a roof there are areas you should aim to walk on.  These vary depending on the roof type you’re on.

Walking on Tiled Roofs

When you’re on a tiled roof you want to aim to walk where the tiles are overlapping (e.g. where the bottom of one tile overlaps the one beneath it) as you have the strength of the two tiles supporting you.  This is where the roof rafters run which provides even more support.

Walking on Metal (Colorbond) Roofs

When walking on a metal roof, the safest part to walk along is the screw line.  The screw line is where the roof rafters (timber or metal supports under the roof) run which provides you the most support.  The heads of the roofing screws also help provide something for your roofing shoes to grip on.

See also: How to walk on a metal (Colorbond) roof

Watch out where you’re walking

When you’re walking around on a roof there are a number of things that can cause you to slip.  A few things to watch out for include:

Dew on areas of the roof

Dew on a metal roof
Example of dew on a metal roof

Even though there is no rain, you can often get dew form on the top of the roof early in the mornings.  Therefore always check for dew before jumping on the roof and if you notice some give it plenty of time to dry off.

Dust on the roof

I’ve been on roofs before that have a lot of dust on them from either the weather or the likes of brick saws or grinders operating nearby (especially if channels have been grindered in the roof for flashings).  With this in mind, always avoid dusty areas of the roof when walking around.

Sweat…yes sweat!

Believe it or not, I actually slipped on my own sweat whilst working on a roof.  It was that hot and humid one day that I had Sweat dripping off me onto metal roof sheets which when I stood in that area my shoes slipped and I lost grip.  Therefore, if it gets that hot on the roof it’s time to finish up for the day and wait for cooler weather.

Silicone on the roof

Excess roofing silicone or sealant can be another silent killer when it comes to losing your grip.  Time and time again I’ve seen roof plumbers be lazy and not release the pressure on their silicone guns whilst resting them on the roof.  

This silicone can then sometimes drip from the gun and onto the roof providing an accident waiting to happen as clear silicone on a metal roof is one of the slipperiest things you’ll come across.

Final thoughts

I hope you found this article helpful and that before getting up on the roof that you take every precaution that you can to ensure your safety and to prevent a fall or serious injury.  Take care up there!

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