One of the prevailing myths, i.e. anecdotal bullshit stories, in my profession is that all inspectors are either required to or at least certainly should walk upon all roof surfaces during inspections. Nothing could be further from the truth. These sorts of stories are perpetuated by real estate salespeople – agents and brokers – and oftentimes by know-nothing inspectors themselves. Let’s look at the facts.
Mounting a roof is a dangerous activity that should never be taken lightly. This sort of activity should only be undertaken when absolutely required, such as in the case of a roofer performing an installation or a roof repair. How dangerous is it? Enough so that OSHA does not allow it without a significant amount of training and the use of very pricey approved personal protective equipment (PPE). Stiff fines are imposed on scofflaws by OSHA.
Municipal building inspection departments strictly prohibit their field inspectors from climbing on roofs. Most, if not all, home builders specifically instruct third-party inspectors to keep off the roofs during their inspections. All of the major home inspector organization clearly state that inspectors must not walk on roofs.
Even most roofing companies do not actually walk on roofs while performing inspections for hail and wind damage. They rely upon satellite imaging in order to protect their employees. The same is true of insurance adjusters.
So, as a layperson looking to have a house inspected, how exactly might you arrive at the conclusion that home inspectors are less important than all of the above mentioned entities? From your real estate agent, or from the Google repository of unsubstantiated “facts” . . . or both? Thought so.
We are living in a fact-free society. One that allows any blather spewed forth from any mouth to pass as the truth. Everyone considers him- or herself to be an expert. Salespersons, much like our politicians, lead this crowd of nonsense distributors. Though they may assume they have become inspectors via osmosis, in reality they know nothing about houses other than how to sell and buy them. Often as not, they fail at that.
With the advent of the Internet, Google, and other search engines an enormous amount of information is available at the push of a button. How much of it can be believed? Think: Cambridge Analytica. If I now have your attention let’s proceed to the truth about walking on roofs.
There are many safe and certain methods for inspecting roof surfaces without risking injury or death by walking on them. Standing on the ground with 8X42 or 10X50 binoculars will reveal the color of a bird’s eyes that is roosting on the ridge. A moderately-priced 50X camera will take a picture of any defects noted with the binoculars. When possible, viewing the roof from a ladder at the edge is also a good way to avoid death by falling. Cameras that mount atop long extension poles are yet another example of equipment that allows me to stay off of roofs and avoid possible injury.
Yes, there are some roofs where these methods will not work. Some houses require a 36′ or 48′ ladder in order to reach the roof’s edge. Some roofs are higher than that. These roofs are unsafe for individual inspectors due to OSHA rules of ladder safety. One man cannot safely use a ladder of this height. Other roofs need not be walked upon due to the type of surface or the weather conditions during an inspection. For these roofs a certified roofer or steeplejack should be employed.
Other roofs, like older deteriorated asphalt, concrete or clay tiles, and slate can be easily damaged by walking on them. Even brand new asphalt shingles should not be installed, much less walked upon, in temperatures below freezing or above 85° lest they be damaged. Some other roof coverings like metal are too slick to safely mount.
Walking on a roof, for other than the actual installation or repair of it, is a foolish thing to do. If you want a fool for an inspector be certain to choose one that claims he will walk on ANY roof no matter what the circumstances.
While I do walk on some lower pitched roofs when I deem it both necessary and safe, I avoid most due to an inherent drive toward self-preservation. In the end it is the expert’s (my) choice, and not yours. Unless, of course, your time spent at Google University and listening to your agent has allowed you to surpass the knowledge I have gained during the last 44 years.
Here are a few examples of what I am talking about here:
With pending regulations undergoing re-reviews and new restrictions on operating standards looming, it’s a poor time to be uninformed in the construction industry. There’s plenty to be said for upcoming changes to your local job site, so if you feel you haven’t been keeping up to date with big changes that might directly impact your workplace, you’ve come to the right place.
If you have been keeping up with recent news, you’d still be wise to read on about fines and punishment further down the list, especially if you feel you might have a health and safety fine that could make or break your budget this year. You might just find an unusual method of getting a financial break if you play your cards right!
Silica and You: Upcoming Silica Regulation Changes
This isn’t a new development by any stretch of the imagination. Originally proposed back in 2013, silica dust has caught a rather nasty comparison to asbestos exposure in relation to construction worker deaths and its effects on the human body. At best, exposure to such a fine dust can be irritating and difficult to work with, but a worst-case scenario tells a tale of silicosis, a potentially fatal scarring of the lungs caused by repeated or serious exposure to silica dust.
Even though individual airborne particles of silica may be finer than sand, the damage they can do to unprotected workers is severe enough that it spurred OSHA to action, leading to new guidelines under effect as of a few scant days from this time of writing.
If your crew’s work produces a measurable amount of silica dust from its daily operations there are a bevy of new guidelines to work under. Wet saws, proper ventilation and breathing protection and even a written guide on how your company plans to avoid silica dust exposure and a chosen method to control it may be in your future, as each company will be expected to assign someone specifically to the task of handling exposure.
Criticism is already rolling in under a barrage of comments, several of which focus on the feasibility of gathering proper silica dust readings and the extent of work that may be required to handle this new threat.
Is it worth all the fuss? Considering the damage done by asbestos in the past century and its lingering effects on those who came in contact with it, it’s hard to imagine letting its cousin in spirit continue to be produced wholly unchecked.
Crane Regulations Are Still up in the Air
Implementation for updated crane operator regulations were set to go into effect way back in 2014, but there’s a chance they won’t see the light of day until Nov. 2018 at the earliest.
While not as much a pressing issue for smaller construction crews, larger operations may face a stricter series of guidelines for handling operations in areas with excess wind, up to and including the disallowed use of cranes in areas with winds over thirty miles per hour.
Financial concerns may follow as advisory boards have suggested outfitting cranes with new equipment to better track speed of operation and local weather conditions, while older crane models may be phased out of the workplace entirely.
Accident Forgiveness May Have Unseen Costs
If you’ve been cited over a workplace OSHA violation lately, there is yet hope: up to half of contested citations receive a discount. The catch? You may have to spend a little extra money tightening up other workplace issues to make up for the fine you’d be paying otherwise.
While this may sound counterproductive, the ideals behind reducing fines in the construction industry in exchange for work site redesign are fairly sound: If you reduce the risk of future accidents, you’ll likely save more lives than through fine-related punishment. It’s not unusual for larger business to consider an OSHA fine to just be another cost of operation. It’s just another unfortunate truth in a business where costs can be so high that a fine in the thousands of dollars just isn’t worth fighting over.
Finding a way out of a fine may not be that simple, however, as only half of those contested fines averaged out to a reduced amount, but you can play it safe and ensure employees are properly trained and your site is up to snuff via regulation training and seminars with a focus on reducing the likelihood of workplace tragedy.
Until the construction industry settles down again and regulations move into place, ensure you keep up with looming regulation changes as they happen. With OSHA doling out fines in the thousands of dollars over silica dust exposure as rates of silicosis in construction workers continue to rise, being caught unprepared is an easy way to lose a chunk of operating funds as 2018 approaches.
Author Bio: Vincent West is a guest blogger and a Work Boot Critic contributing author. He has a high interest in everything related to the construction industry, especially in occupational health and safety.