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Playing Russian Roulette in the residential roofing business

Perhaps roofers like this are smarter than the rest of us. Maybe they have friends in the business who can get them good deals on wheelchair ramps. Or caskets.


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April 8, 2015 by Alec Caldwell

Roofers 20150402_125132-1

On April 2, the day after the arrival of the new Working at Heights Standard in Ontario, it was business as usual for one roofing company located in the GTA area (see pic, above). On this re-shingling job, safety was as scarce as finding a chicken with teeth.

Here’s the worker on the garage roof, not tied down. The new regulation relating to this, where a worker is exposed to falling from a height of more than 3 meters (approx. 9.9 feet), states that they must be connected to a fall arrest system consisting of a full body harness with adequate attachment points and a lanyard equipped with a shock absorber or similar device. (O. Reg. 145/00, s. 14)

Within minutes this worker climbed an extension ladder to the upper roof and joined his two worker mates, who were also not tied down. One worker was even observed working at the gutter’s edge, where one false move could mean a 1.5 second fall to the ground, either badly injured or dead.

On the plus side, one safety item was correct: their ladder did extended 3 feet above the landing surface, however the downside was that their ladder was not secured top and bottom to prevent movement as required under O. Reg. 213/91, s. 80 regulation.

Had I been a Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector observing this, it may have played out like this:

Three workers would be fined for not being tied off to a personal fall protection system (with harness, lanyards, rope grabs, lifelines and anchor points) at a price-tag of $295 (plus 25% victim surcharge) totaling $1,106 or $369.00 for each worker.

On top of that, no one was wearing hard hats as required under O. Reg. 213/91, s. 20 regulation, so there would be an additional fine of $731 or $195.00 (plus 25% victim surcharge) for each worker as well.

Adding these two fines together would mean each worker would have to dig in to their pockets and pay $612. TO put it simply, they worked for nothing that day!! They were working hard to earn a meager income, yet it could have been easily lost by fines. All due to their employers failure to protect their safety!

Other safety violations that could have lead to even further fines include:

  • Their ladder not being tied down top and bottom (O. Reg. 213/91, s. 80).
  • No safety glasses (O. Reg. 213/91, s. 24)
  • No protective footwear (O. Reg. 213/91, s. 23 (1)
  • No lifeline while using a ladder on heights above 3 meters.
  • No protection to the public (the neighbour was repeatedly observed walking between
    both properties, where shingles lay and where hammers or more could fall on them.
    The walkway should have been close off with added signage).And the absolute kicker was that not one of these workers carried a current Fall Training card. This could have easily lead to their job site being closed down immediately. Would the homeowner be happy that their home is now left exposed to the weather elements?While it’s great to introduce new safety legislation, the question is, how can it quickly get enforced? How do you catch employers that show total disregard for the safety of their workers on roofs and elsewhere? How do we make it a level playing field for everyone, especially when compliant companies have to factor in safety to their pricing?

    It’s one thing to introduce a new regulation, but it’s another to ensure that the regulation is actually being followed!

    As always, if you have questions on the article or information on the NEW Working at Heights training, call us Toll free at 1.866.366.2930 and remember we are not affiliated to any government department or any unions.

    By providing education and training, CARAHS reduces your risk of fines, job site closures and prosecution under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. We are independent of unions and government

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Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization. We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609) Visit the Ministry of Labour's web site to view our listing
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1 Comment » for Playing Russian Roulette in the residential roofing business
  1. Jeremy says:

    I understand and agree with fall protection (in most cases) but wearing a hard hat on the roof makes no sense