Heavy lifting, electrical hazards, toxic substances, extreme weather, and steep or slick surfaces high above the ground make roofing one of the riskiest occupations for workers in Las Vegas. In fact, Roofers are three times more likely to be killed on the job than workers in other industries. Serious or fatal accidents can occur on roofing sites even when appropriate precautions are taken to avoid them. Approximately 50 workers in the roofing industry lose their lives every year. Thousands more are injured so severely that they are unable to return to work.
Roofing Work is Dangerous in Nature
The risk for injury or death that roofers face on the job is largely due to their job duties and working environment. Roofers install, replace, and repair the roofs of homes and other buildings using an array of materials. Working in the roofing industry is physically demanding. It demands bending, climbing, kneeling, heavy lifting, and working with power and manual tools. Often, the work that roofers do is performed at significant heights and while exposed to extreme weather conditions.
Working well above the ground most of the time, roofers face a significant risk for falls. Roofs are commonly steep, slick, and unstable. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 34% of the fatal falls occurring between 2003 and 2013 were from roofs. Many roofing industry falls are deadly. Those that are not fatal often result in serious injuries including:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head trauma
- Damaged joints
Companies that employ roofers must utilize safety precautions and equipment to help protect workers from fall-related injuries. However, some roofing accidents are not preventable.
Struck by Objects
Forcible impact or contact between roofers and objects or pieces of equipment on the job-site can result in struck-by object injuries. Struck-by accidents occur when objects dropped by workers above hit those walking or working below. Such occupational accidents may result in a wide range of injuries including concussions or traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, cuts or abrasions, punctures, and crushing injuries.
Electrocutions and Burns
Power lines and equipment are common hazards on roofing sites, which may result in severe electric shock or electrocution for workers. Exposure to electricity can cause injuries like burns, broken bones or dislocations, or paralysis. Many workers who have been exposed to dangerous levels of electricity experience unconsciousness, numbness or tingling, confusion, difficulty breathing, or seizures. In addition to causing internal damage, electrocutions often lead to cardiac arrest, which commonly results in death.
Depending on the type of roof installation, roofers sometimes use hot tar in the course of their work. Splashes, spills, or falling into the containers used to transport tar can result in severe burns which can cause permanent scarring, nerve damage, and chronic pain.
Exposure to Toxic Substances
Whether present in their working environments or a part of the work they perform, roofers often come across hazardous chemicals on the job. Roofers may inhale or ingest lead; asbestos; silica; or other toxic fumes, gases, vapors, dust, and mists. As a result, workers in the roofing industry have an increased risk of developing serious occupational illnesses such as asbestosis, lead poisoning, silicosis, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. When asphalt is used in roofing projects, exposure may cause workers to experience eye or throat irritation, headaches, and fatigue.
Roofers are often exposed to the elements in the course of performing their work. This poses a significant risk for heat- and cold-related illnesses or injuries, some of which are fatal. Heat illnesses are of particular concern in states such as Nevada where extreme temperatures are common during the summer months. OSHA reports that exposure to heat on the job results in heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke for thousands of workers each year.
Conditions such as high winds, rain, and ice or sleet are dangerous for roofers as they may contribute to slips or falls, and cold-weather injuries and illnesses. Rain and ice may make the surface roof workers are on slippery, and high winds may make it difficult for them to maintain their footing. Prolonged exposure to cold or freezing temperatures can cause roofers to develop frostbite, trench foot, cold stress, and hypothermia.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Roofers who suffer injuries in work accidents as a result of performing their job duties may qualify for benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation program. Injured workers may receive lost time compensation, as well as coverage of their associated and reasonably necessary medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation. In some cases, roofers injured on-the-job may also get other claims-related benefits such as mileage reimbursement. Should workers die due to occupational injuries, their families may receive dependent’s payments.