Key Takeaways

Roofing contractors should consider using a slide guard as a supplemental means of fall protection when working on roof slopes that are 34° (8 in 12) or less, but a slide guard should never be considered as the sole means to achieve work site fall protection compliance.

Using a slide guard on a 45° roof slope (12 in 12) would not be an effective fall protection supplement to comply with OSHA’s fall protection requirements.

Contractors should consider purchasing and using synthetic underlayment materials with higher coefficient-of-friction values. This type of information may be available from the suppliers of underlayment materials that are used on steep-sloped roofs.

Workers falling from elevated work sites is the primary cause of fatalities in the U.S. construction industry. A compilation of data for the years 2014 through 2018 from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) database, which is maintained by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2016a, b, c; 2020a, b, c), is presented in Table 1. This table includes the total number of fatalities in all U.S. industries and the total number of construction- related fatalities (rows 1 and 3), as well as the total number of deaths caused by falls to a lower level for all U.S. industries and for construction (rows 2 and 4). Fall-to-lower-level fatalities accounted for about 13% of all fatalities occurring in all U.S. industries during this period. In the construction industry, fall-to-lower-level fatalities averaged about 37% of all construction-related fatalities. In Table 1, a separate listing of data is shown for construction workplace situations related to falls from roof edges (row 5).

Roofers are a high-risk work group. The overall fatality rates for all construction occupations are compared with the overall fatality rates for roofers from 2014 through 2018 (Table 1, rows 6 and 8). For 2018, the fatality rate for roofers was 51.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This is more than five times the fatality rate of all construction workers, which was 9.5 deaths per 100,000 FTE workers (BLS, 2020c). Included in row 7 is the total number of annual roofer fatalities for the 5 years, which ranged from 75 to 101 during that period.

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