Steep roof training? What a total waste of my time and money. I’ve been doing this job for over three years now, I’ve inspected a couple hundred steep roofs with never an accident and am always careful on the job. Well, ok, there was that one time when I slipped and almost slid off a roof but I caught a soil pipe on the way down and stopped myself so that doesn’t really count. Anyway, that was before I got a good pair of those sticky sole roofing boots so now I can’t slip or fall. Besides, I’m always careful.
Famous Last Words? Here’s somebody else who thought he’d never have an accident.........
"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fog and the like. But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident ... of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort."
Edward J. Smith, 1907
Captain, RMS Titanic
While we would like to believe a fall from a roof would never happen to us, the reality is far different. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 300,000 lost time injuries and 1,500 to 2,000 fatalities from falls on the job occur annually. Investigations indicate that workers are often complacent about using fall protection while they are working at height and frequently believe erroneously that they won’t fall.
Steep roofs are becoming the norm in many new neighborhoods with roof pitches of 10/12, 12/12 or higher being prevalent. With class prices ranging from $175 to $300 and more per day and safety equipment needed to access steep roofs safely running a few hundred dollars more it can seem to be an expensive but mostly unnecessary luxury item. Let’s face it, the economy is tight, funds are short for many people and more of us are watching our discretionary expenditures a lot more closely. Lets look at some of those expenses we may encounter from not getting steep roof training and the safety equipment to go along with it.
Ok, from minor to major ...... You fall off a steep roof and don’t break anything when you land but you do jam your back up pretty badly. At the least you are off work for a few days alternating with ice and heat treatments and a few handfuls of ibuprofen thrown in for good measure. Maybe there is a good therapeutic massage provider available in the area you are working in or you may go visit the local emergency room or a “Doc in a box” clinic for some prescriptions for muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Hmmmm, by my rough calculations you are already up to the cost of a good steep roof class and the associated safety equipment.
Now lets go a little more serious ...... You fall off a steep roof and break bones, leg(s), arm(s), ribs, etc., when you hit the ground. Now you need a ride in an ambulance to the local emergency room. Depending on how remote the area you are working in is or how congested the local highways your trip to the E.R. may be by helicopter ambulance. Now we’re talking much more serious expense. Add an orthopaedic surgeon into the mix to reset broken bones or possibly have to do surgery to install pins, screws, etc., plus a few nights stay in the hospital and we are talking a major expense. Oh yeah, we can’t forget the time lost from work while bones heal and you go through rehab. Hmmmm, by my rough calculations you are up to the cost of a good steep roof class and the associated safety equipment for you and twenty of your closest friends.
Ok, even more serious ...... You fall off a steep roof and receive serious neck and/or back injuries. You are transported to the local E.R. to find out that the small hospital in the rural area you are working in isn’t equipped for your type of injuries and after initial treatment and stabilization you are transferred to a big city hospital full of high priced specialists. After much poking, prodding, examining, testing and x-raying they find that your injuries have caused you to become a paraplegic or even worse, a quadriplegic with no hope of improvement. You have the rest of your life to look forward to living in a wheel chair with no control over your bladder, bowels or sexual functions and having to depend on someone else to feed, clean and dress you. Hmmmm, I don’t have enough fingers to be able to calculate the cost (short-term and long-term as well as mental costs) associated with this type of injury.
Ok, one last fall ...... This time you fall off a steep roof and are killed by impact with the ground or other objects. What is the cost to your family and close friends? Loss of a loved one, loss of a major wage earner, loss of a husband, father, son. What emotional toll are you putting them through? Sudden and unexpected bills from the funeral home, sudden loss of income, not enough life insurance to make ends meet for your family, your kids not having a father-figure to teach them important life lessons, never getting to see your kids graduate from high school or college, never being part of their wedding ceremonies, not being there for the birth of their children, never getting to play with your future grandchildren ......
Hmmmm. What do all these scenarios have in common? They are all easily preventable by taking a good steep roof class and buying and using the associated safety equipment. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do you continue taking serious risks with your health and safety or do you do what is necessary to enable you to live and love and be there for your family. You get one chance to make the right choice and that choice happens every time you go out on a steep roof inspection job.
Death or serious injury may be the likely outcome if proper precautions are not taken before accessing any area at height where falling is a possible outcome.