Removing Risks From the Roofing Industry

Removing Risks From the Roofing Industry

18th February 2016

Roofing is a risky business – after all, it’s working at height and most of us working in the construction industry can’t fail to be aware that falls from height are the most common cause of work related fatalities. However, falling from a height is not the only risk associated with roofing work and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is committed to raising awareness of some of the other health risks associated with roofing work so that contractors can be on the lookout and avoid them.

Manual handling is one of the most common causes of work related ill health amongst roofers here in the UK. Carrying out tasks such as loading out roof tiles, carrying mortar to roof level and laying out roofing sheets are all strenuous activities that can really take their toll if not done properly. Unsafe manual handling practices can lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like back pain or repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). When faced with manual handling tasks, you should first assess whether the load needs to be manually handled or whether the task can be completed without needing to move the whole load. You should also consider whether the task of moving the load could be automated and made easier with the help of machinery such as lifting equipment or hoists – however the use of machinery brings a different set of risks which will need to be assessed.

There’s another serious occupational hazard facing roofers and that’s potential exposure to all sorts of harmful dusts and chemicals. Past exposure to asbestos is the most common cause of work-related deaths here in the UK (accounting for about 4,500 deaths every year) despite the fact that the use of asbestos was totally banned in 1999. Asbestos is still out there because until it was outlawed it was commonly used in construction projects. This means that construction industry workers, especially those working on projects dealing with refurbishments and repairs, are constantly coming across asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Other types of construction dust can also cause serious lung diseases like asthma, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

The risk of developing cancer as a result of prolonged exposure to harmful dusts in the workplace increases over time. More than 500 construction workers die each year as a result of lung cancer caused by silica dust.

IOSH and the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP) conducted a survey of more than 600 workers throughout the industry in order to investigate attitudes within the construction sector towards dust safety. Respondents revealed that at present a lack of priority is given to the construction dust issue by many companies (with little being done to design out dust risks) and that there’s poor awareness of the risk among workers themselves. There’s a lack of understanding of the use of on-tool extraction and an over-reliance on respiratory protective equipment as the main way of controlling the dust risk.

IOSH is currently running a campaign called “No Time to Lose” in order to raise awareness in the industry of occupational cancers and to offer construction companies held and advice to prevent workers from being exposed to carcinogens. We’ll be brining you more news of this campaign next week.