Roof repair is a critical task that must be included in any facility manager’s planning and budget. While roofing that utilizes the best materials and construction should stand up to years of use without much issue, a repair is almost inevitable at some point in the building’s life span. The key to keeping these repairs minor, and therefore holding expenses down, is to work with a roofing manufacturer that offers schedules regular inspections at no cost. In the course of planning and executing roof inspections and repairs, safety is also a central issue.
Flat roofing risks
For flat roofs, an SBS or built-up roofing is the preferred roof design for most commercial and industrial buildings, particularly because materials like SBS modified bitumen can be used to seal and protect its surface. Compared to single-ply roofing systems, they provided enhanced resistance to foot traffic, as well as higher energy efficiency. However, no roofing system is completely impenetrable, which is why performing recurring professional inspections is so essential.
In the course of an inspection, an engineer will likely be on the lookout for the most common sources of failure in a built-up roof system. According to a guide from the U.S. General Services Administration, a commercial roof inspection will actually include a full survey of the building’s interior and exterior, including walls and drainage systems.
- On exterior walls, inspectors will look for settlement cracks, as well as any stained or displaced flashing. They might also look for efflorescence, which is the presence of salt on top of a porous material that indicates water penetration.
- Interior walls will also be inspected for stains, paint chipping or discoloration, all of which are signs of roof failure.
- The roof surface itself will be checked for any obvious faults in the exterior and interior of the structure. This includes obvious signs like cracks or gaps in the roof’s membrane, as well as less noticeable details, such as a pronounced amount of “give” in the roof when standing on top of it.
Roof inspection and repair safety
Working with a licensed and insured roofing contractor means facility managers will have little reason to worry about health and safety risks. However, in every inspection and repair scenario, the risk of injury or property damage is always there. According to OSHA guidelines, both contractors and their clients must have a written fall protection plan tailored to the site and the specific work that will be performed.
The nature of flat roofing systems means that some of the risks involved in accessing a typical sloped roof do not apply. Still, workers, supervisors and facility managers must take all of the following precautions into account:
- Before the start of any job, contractors and clients should work together to identify safety risks and develop a concrete plan for addressing them.
- Many commercial roofs may not require ladders or lift equipment to access, and may already include a sizeable barrier between its top surface and the edge. According to OSHA, if managers and workers can demonstrate that equipment like ladders, lifts and scaffolding is not feasible for roof access and repair, they must still create a written fall protection plan for working at heights greater than six feet.
- The fall protection plan must be prepared by a qualified person as defined by OSHA regulations, and must be specific to the work site and the type of work to be completed.
Understanding the basics of roof safety and fall protection is crucial for everyone involved in an inspection or repair project. Fortunately, by taking these basic steps, and by relying on a trusted professional, facility managers or owners needn’t worry much about getting the job done safely and correctly.