3 Steps for Protecting Anyone Who Goes On Your Roof

For the tenth year in a row, OSHA’s annual list of most frequently cited violations found Fall Protection – General Requirements as the #1 most cited violation. Being a roofing company this is something that is very serious to us and, as people who value the lives of employees and co-workers, it’s probably very serious to you too.

There are three essential steps to protect anyone that goes on your roof.

Step 1


“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

Thomas Edison

Before anybody even steps foot onto the roof it is vital for there to be a roof safety plan, set in place. A good plan will help you establish the answers to important questions such as:

  • What equipment should we use?
  • Do we have everything we need?
  • What type of roof is it?
  • Are there any skylights or leading edges that we need to be prepared for?

Even the height and slope of the roof will dictate certain safety measures.

Steel Building Roof Pitches

Did you know that OSHA’s regulations change depending on if the slope of the roof is more or less than 4:12?

If the roof is a “low-slope” less than 4:12 pitch, then there are a few options.

Low Slope Metal Roof
  • Guardrail systems
  • Safety net systems
  • A combination of the warning line system and guardrail systems
  • Or, on roofs of 50-feet or less in width, the use of a safety monitoring system alone is allowed

If the roof is a “steep roof”, greater than 4:12 pitch, the options become more specific.

Metal Building Steep Slope Roof

Each employee must be protected from falling by one of the following.

  • Guardrail systems with toeboards
  • Safety net system
  • Personal fall arrest system (PFAS)

Planning can seem overwhelming, and since it is the first step, it may make you want to procrastinate. But understand, once your plan is figured out you will be one step closer to ensuring everyone can come down from the roof slow and steady!

If you have any questions regarding how to create a plan or what types of safety measures need to be included for your roof, you can always give our roof experts a call. We can come out and take a look at your roof and explain to you the necessary safety requirements for your team.


Ok.  Your plan has been fleshed out. Nice Work!   Now what?

Now it’s time to make sure that anyone who goes onto your roof has all of the right equipment.

Step 2


“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Alexander Graham Bell

As we mentioned in Step 1, the roof pitch dictates many of the safety requirements. If your roof is more than 6 feet above a lower level (which it probably is…) then anyone who goes on it is at risk of serious injury or death if they fall.

A guardrail system, or PFAS (Personal fall arrest system), or safety net system, are all OSHA-compliant ways to keep you and your crew safe while at those heights. Employers must also provide the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and other additional gear.

Commercial Roofing Safety Illustration

A PFAS consists of (A) an anchor, (B) a harness, and (C) a lifeline or lanyard. PFAS needs to be used properly to be effective. So how do you know if you are using it correctly?

First of all, it is important not to attach anchors to sheathing, single trusses, or more guardrails. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing anchorage.

If you’re going with a Fall Arrest System, it must be designed and set up to prevent a worker from free falling more than 6 feet or contacting a lower level.

Guardrail Systems can be placed either around the entire perimeter of the roof or just around roof openings. A guardrail must be 39-45 inches above walking surfaces. They need to be able to withstand a 200-pound force in any outward or downward direction.

If there is a hole for materials to come through or as points of access, then there needs to be a gate or the guardrail needs to be offset so no one could walk directly into the hole.

These items will help to keep your crew safe while they are working on the roof. Now start shopping and make sure that you can provide everyone who goes on your roof with the right equipment!

Metal Roof Safety Railing

Now that we’ve covered step two in figuring out the required safety equipment you’ll need to provide for your team when they step onto your roof, we have just one more step to go. But before we do, take a breath… This is a lot of information to pack into one read.

For any readers who may feel reluctant at the thought of spending hours slowly scrolling across the internet – trying to make heads-or-tails of what size D-ring would be best…We Get It!

If this is you, please feel free to bookmark this article to refer back to anytime as needed. So much goes into keeping people safe and it all deserves your attention when your goal is to protect those who must get on your roof.

Again, we’re always happy to help you find what you need and can even help you find the very same safety products we use frequently. We’d love to hear your needs and help you make a decision.

With that said, we’re ready for the final step. Step three is how to ensure that all of this important equipment is used to its fullest potential!

You have your plan. You’ve provided the required equipment. It’s still not time to let anyone up on the roof yet though. No matter how many people need to access your roof, one thing that doesn’t change is the fact that EVERY person needs to know the plan AND how to use the equipment so they can safely get on and off the roof.

The goal is to ensure that every person on the roof knows how to be safe and understands the equipment is there as a precaution. That’s why the third step is to TRAIN.

Step 3


“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Employers must train anyone who goes on the roof on many things, especially how to safely utilize each piece of equipment. It’s equally important to train your team on how to recognize different kinds of hazards - and how to minimize them safely.

Large Metal Manufacturing Facility with Holes in Roof

Some common hazards that people should be trained on include:

1. Roof Stability – Is the roof strong enough to support the weight of a human?

2. Ladder Security & Placement – Is the ladder secure at a 4:1 angle, are the feet secure, the top above the roof line and tied securely?

3. Weather Conditions – Ice, snow, and wind are always a hazard on a roof if it is slippery.

4. Roof Holes – Unguarded skylights and poorly covered holes. Without fall protection, an open hole on a roof can be just as deadly as the roof edge.

Metal Roof Safety Ties

5. Edge Awareness – Losing the edge of the roof can be a problem when on the roof. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in their project that they forget where the roof edge is.

6. Improper Use of Fall Protection Equipment – Such as: poorly anchored railing, lanyard too long, or a week tie-off point.

7. Poor Line of Sight – Ridge vents, chimneys, shingle bundles may block egress on a roof.

Training is something that needs to be repeated constantly for everyone. Each person who goes on the roof needs to be retrained anytime the equipment changes, work conditions change, new systems are changed, or regulations are changed. This last step is the most strenuous because it needs to be repeated so much. Just remember it IS a matter of life and death.

Once again, if you have any questions about the safety of your roof or would like more resources on how to train anyone needing to go on the roof, give our metal roof experts a call. We have SAFELY been going onto roofs for over 35 years, and have seen more than 1Million hours with no OSHA recordable injuries.

United States, Congress, “Protecting Roof Workers.” Protecting Roof Workers, OSHA, pp. 8–16.

“Top 10 Rooftop Safety Hazards.” Simplified Safety, Simplified Safety, simplifiedsafety.com/blog/top-10-rooftop-safety-hazards/.