Summer Safety for Commercial Roofing

As summer provides the ideal conditions for commercial roofing projects with its longer days and warmer weather, it also presents additional safety challenges that must be navigated to keep workers safe and healthy while working on commercial roofs. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat strokes, are serious conditions that can escalate rapidly if not addressed.

According to the World Health Organization, heat stress is the “…leading cause of weather-related deaths and can exacerbate underlying illnesses including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health, asthma, and can increase the risk of accidents and transmission of some infectious diseases.” Fortunately, the health impacts are largely preventable so long as safety measures are followed.

For commercial roofing contractors, it is paramount to remain hydrated to prevent heat illnesses, which require workers to drink water very frequently.  Hot and humid weather increases dehydration, especially when doing strenuous activity, particularly in southern states such as Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia. This is exacerbated when on flat commercial roofs, where there is often little to no shade, and many forms of roofing material will reflect the sun’s rays back onto the workers. To combat this, an individual should drink more water than usual when outside. In addition, wearing appropriate clothing and sun protection is crucial for long-term protection of one’s skin. Workers are recommended to wear lightweight breathable clothing that covers their arms and legs in addition to wide-brimmed visors and sunglasses to protect from harmful UV rays.

At Ideal Building Solutions, we prepare for commercial roof installation projects and provide a variety of resources to our employees working on commercial roofs to help protect them from heat illnesses. On all our commercial roofing projects, we set up multiple shade tents with walls and powerful fans to ensure our workers can get out of the direct sun and cool their bodies down. We also provide personal protective equipment (PPE) like wide-brim sun shades that attach to their safety helmets, cooling helmet liners that can be soaked in water to cool their head down, hydration powders, and reusable ice packs to ensure our workers can stay hydrated and as cool as possible.

Workers on commercial roofing projects should also receive regular breaks in shaded and/or cool areas to prevent overheating, ideally at the hottest times of day, and schedule work during the coolest hours. Most importantly, workers and supervisors should check and monitor for signs of heat exhaustion, allowing for any symptoms to be quickly recognized and addressed. These symptoms include:

    • Dizziness
    • Muscle cramping
    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
    • Confusion
    • Heart palpitations
    • Nausea

If any of these symptoms become present, the individual needs to immediately be treated by going indoors if possible, drinking water, and having their skin blotted with a cool water towel to lower their temperature. To prevent a heat stroke, treatment needs to be implemented as soon as symptoms are shown, and workers need to be provided with a safe and healthy work environment.