Canadian Contractor

“What’s one less roofer?” the homeowner said to me

Almost the entire crew of roofers had no safety equipment. I pointed it out to the homeowner, who said to me, laughing, "Oh well, what's one less roofer?"


June 24, 2015
By Alec Caldwell

Working as a roofer might be the hardest gig in our industry. It’s obviously dangerous working at heights. You’re up there crazy hours in season. You work in a blast furnace of heat. So being tough is part of your mindset, if you wanna survive in the business.

Unfortunately, being “tough” causes too many roofers to also play stupid –  gambling on safety by not wearing the legally-required fall-restricting or fall arrest equipment.

For this reason, I targeted roofers for my recent residential job site visits and it was a easy to catch whole crews working without fall equipment. A few vanished over roof lines when they spotted me, then reappeared tied to lifelines. I was ahead of the game, viewing them from a series of angles before appearing. I wasn’t there to fine them – I’m not with the MOL. But the MOL inspectors operate the same way, they view the safety infraction long before they make themselves known to the workers.

You’d think I’d get abuse. Sometimes I do, but not often. Many of the roofers I visited said it was a wake up call to have me there instead of the MOL. But will my visits really make a difference? Certainly not for one crew who removed their lifelines after I left. Little did they know I’d return shortly afterward.

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Another crew of three guys were about 27 feet up there with no safety equipment in sight and both ladders badly leaning sharply to one side – something like the tower of Pisa, but not as secure.

The person on the ground I talked to turned out to be the homeowner. I pointed skyward towards the guys on his property working unsafely and in non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. I couldn’t believe what he said next:

“What’s one less roofer?”

That could have been his son or daughter up there.

Some of the roofer I talked to who had no safety gear actually volunteered to showed me their Fall Training course completion cards (now Working at Heights Standard from April 1, 2015). But the MOL roofers’ safety blitz, if they were onsite, wouldn’t bother with the cards – they’d already be busting these roofers for their lack of equipment.

If someone takes a 25-foot plunge and gets impaled through the chest on a neighbours fence, a Fall Training card is not going to help matters very much. Nor will the card save the site supervisor/foreman – or the business owner – from prosecution for failing to protect this worker. And the MOL would want to see the company’s written safety plan for this site. No, “Call 9-11” is not a safety plan. (If you want to know what a proper safety plan looks like, give us a call!)

This week’s featured online e-course HEAT STRESS: Learn to recognize symptoms of heat exhaustion and prevent serious illness or injuries that can result from ignoring heat safety protocols.

CARAHS can answer any questions you might have on working safe to protect your workers and yourself from the risk of fines, job site closure and prosecution. Call us toll free 1 866 366 2930.

Passion – Commitment – Integrity

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4 Comments » for “What’s one less roofer?” the homeowner said to me
  1. Helpless Me says:

    So the roofers had taken the required fall protection courses, had their cards to prove it, and still did not work in accordance. I think I am with the homeowner on this one ….. sounds like a natural selection process where the brain dead get weeded out. Another case where lazy employees cut corners and do not take the first step towards their own personal safety. It is always someone else fault. Of course if and when anything goes wrong and they get injured they will let their employer or company take the hit. Running a business today is 95% baby sitting and 5% tax collecting. I have one advice for the homeowner. Because lawyers follow the money, kick any unprofessional or unsafe looking entity from your property to protect yourself. Also kick the guy who created this article off your property too. He sounds like a trouble maker and sensationalist.

    • Steve Payne says:

      Helpless Me, suggest you visit http://www.carahs.org to confirm for yourself that Alec Caldwell has a very valuable association up and running for renovation contractors. His job is in fact to help keep contractors out of trouble, and help them get out of it when they are in trouble. Huge number of loyal members who go to his monthly meet ups. Thanks for your comment overall, appreciate your post!

  2. Ted says:

    What number do I call to report unsafe roofing installations.

    • To report unsafe work practices in Ontario, Ted, simply call the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s toll free at 1 877 202 0008. If you are in another province please advise and we will get you the number where you are.

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