Seeing the Light

Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. What hurts the most is when we miss an obvious solution to a problem — when we look back at a difficult time and realize an option we didn’t take advantage of was staring us in the face all along. Picture Homer Simpson smacking his forehead and exclaiming, “D’oh!”

When we look back at this time in history, I think that’s how we’ll feel about adopting solar power. No matter what your opinion is about other forms of energy, including fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, and wind turbines, I think you’d have to admit that we aren’t making enough use of solar. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think it’s obvious that in the rays of the sun, we have a tremendous renewable resource that is mostly going by the wayside.

I interviewed a plumbing contractor a few years ago who specialized in passive solar hot water systems. He said the inspiration came to him when he picked up a garden hose that had been out in the sun and the water nearly scalded his hand. “It was then I thought, ‘Why am I paying a utility to heat the water in my house?’” he said.

I was reminded of that conversation when I interviewed Martin DeBono of GAF Energy for this issue. Before entering the world of rooftop solar, DeBono had a background as a nuclear engineer and served as a submarine officer in the Navy. “I’ve always been fascinated by solar,” he said. “The sun provides the equivalent amount of energy in one hour as all of the world’s power plants produce in a whole year. You combine that with the fact that I am a huge outdoors person — I love the outdoors —and you can see some of the challenges the world faces by relying on fossil fuels.”

His job also allows him to tap into his love of building things. “Last week I built a mock-up roof in my driveway with a mock-up solar system to show some executives and some family and friends what we do,” DeBono said. “So, solar gives me the opportunity to build, to think, to advance technology and do something I believe in.”

DeBono believes in making the most of technology to harness the power of the sun. He also believes in another obvious point: the roof is the domain of the roofing contractor. “We firmly believe that roofers should be installing the system and ensuring the integrity of the roof,” he said. “You do not want anybody other than a roofing contractor working on your roof.”

Ladder Personal Fall Arrest Systems Comply With OSHA Regulations

As of November 19, 2018, new OSHA requirements were implemented for fixed ladders. The OSHA regulations eliminate the need for cages on any new fixed ladder installations. The regulations also require that all fixed ladders over 24 feet be equipped with a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).

In response to these changes, Design Components Inc. provides PFAS that meet or exceed the new OSHA guidelines. The company offers complete ladder safety solutions with rigid rail and trolley construction or cable and grab construction.

These systems are customizable and are packaged together to include all the needed accessories. This includes the attachment hardware, trolleys, cable grabs, deluxe body harnesses and any other necessary equipment. The company also offers expert consulting to determine the right products for the site to ensure they meet OSHA regulations and ANSI standards.

“Design Components Inc. is a great resource to go to when if you have fixed ladder and PFAS design questions, need product information, or pricing for a specific project,” says Chris Lafferty of Design Components Inc. “This takes the guesswork out of knowing if you have that right products for an OSHA-compliant fixed ladder.”

Design Components Inc. offers a wide variety of accessories and safety-related products for metal buildings, including fixed ladders, ladder fall arrest systems, METALWALK rooftop walkways, door canopies, roof curbs, whole building ventilation, and much more.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.designcomponents.com

Call: (800) 868-9910

What Every Roofer Should Know About Ladder and Fall Protection Safety

Fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use.

Roofing can be a dangerous profession, even in optimal weather and working conditions. Working at high elevations, on steep slopes and near unprotected edges are routine in the work life of a professional roofer. Alone, these situations can pose significant risk to the health and safety of roofers. Combined with the common environmental factors of windy weather and rain-slicked surfaces, the job can go from risky to outright dangerous on any given day.

What’s more, roofers face another risk every day on the job — injuries relating to ladder use or falls. Since 2017, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has closed more than 90 Federal and State investigations into workplace fatalities relating to ladder use on jobsites across the country, and many of these fatalities result from falls. The American Ladder Institute (ALI) reports that more than 300 ladder deaths occur every year, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 697 fatal falls from a higher level to a lower level in 2016.

All roofers know that ladder safety is important, yet many lack the training and education needed to safely maintain their climbing equipment. It’s essential that professionals understand that in addition to proper ladder use, they must also learn how to inspect a ladder for optimal safety. Education is the most important factor in improving jobsite safety and saving lives.

The Importance of Ladder Safety Training

The first step in ensuring that roofing professionals utilize ladders safely and effectively on the jobsite is to provide training on the essential components of ladder use. In fact, ALI notes that 76 percent of companies believe ladder accidents that occurred in their workplace could have been avoided with ladder safety training. When roofers feel confident in climbing and working on a ladder, they can protect themselves and promote a culture of safety among other professionals.

Figure 1. A ladder inspection form such as this one should be accessible on the worksite.

Ladder safety training sessions can either be conducted online or in-person on a jobsite. While online training provides greater accessibility and convenience, an onsite training session offers the ability to demonstrate real-world examples by job application and explore trade usage scenarios. Equipment manufacturers and various national organizations provide free ladder safety training in both formats. For example, OSHA conducts hundreds of ladder and fall protection safety training sessions every May as part of its National Safety Stand-Down initiative. A typical training for jobsite participants may include topics such as:

  • Safety protocols by application.
  • How to safely climb and work for extended periods from a ladder.
  • Common dangers posed by improper ladder use.

For a quick refresher or reference tool, take a look at the right and wrong ways to use a ladder. Even commonsense reminders can prevent against workplace injury.

Using a Ladder the Right Way

  • Prior to using a ladder, be certain that it is on a completely flat surface to prevent tipping.
  • Center your body on the ladder and keep your waist between the rails while maintaining a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Climb facing the ladder, move one step at a time and firmly set one foot before moving the other one. This is important to remember on your descent as well — don’t take any shortcuts to get down quicker.
  • If possible, have one person hold the ladder at the bottom while another person performs the task.
  • Move materials with extreme caution so as not to lose your balance or tip the ladder.

Using a Ladder the Wrong Way

  • Don’t stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. This is very important as you can easily lose your balance and fall.
  • Don’t climb a ladder if you are not physically and mentally up to the task.
  • Don’t place the base of an extension ladder too close to, or too far away from, the house/building.
  • Don’t over-reach or lean to one side.
  • Don’t try to move a ladder while on it or from above. Climb down and then reposition the ladder closer to where you are working.
  • Don’t exceed the maximum weight of a ladder.
  • DO NOT permit more than one person on an extension ladder.

Ladder Inspection Checklist

Many roofers feel confident operating a ladder to perform their job duties. However, many take for granted the state of the equipment itself. Ladder inspections are just as important as general ladder use training. Both roofers and contracting business owners should know how to properly inspect all climbing equipment prior to each use.

Figure 2. The correct positioning of fall protection equipment and the connecting device is crucial.

While there are many ladder styles and models, there are several aspects of a safety inspection that apply to every ladder. The following should always be inspected before climbing a ladder.

1. Steps: Inspect each step of the ladder to search for cracks in the material, looseness between the step and the body of the ladder, missing pieces of hardware such as screws and bolts, or any missing steps.

2. Rails: Inspect each rail of the ladder for cracks in the material, frayed rail shields, or bent angles. These are indicators of compromised stability.

3. Labels: Ensure the ladder still has labels that are legible. Labels will often list important user information, such as the load capacity for the climber and their materials, directions for climbing safely, as well as any compliances with OSHA or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

4. Material quality: Ensure the ladder’s material is in good condition. Check for corrosion, rusting, or any loose parts, which can pose a danger to the user if left unchecked.

5. Hardware: Check to see that all bracing, shoes and rivets on the ladder are uniform and securely placed.

Proper fall protection training is essential. Photos: Werner Ladder

Each item on this five-part checklist can be inspected with a quick and thorough scan. If any of these five aspects of a ladder are not secure and sound, a ladder is not fit for climbing and should be immediately removed from service until it is either repaired or permanently discarded.

It’s also important to understand the unique aspects of ladders that are frequently used on the worksite. The most common types of ladders chosen by roofing professionals are stepladders, extension ladders and podium ladders, which all pose various benefits and have notable differences in their construction. Below are important attributes to check for each ladder style. A sample ladder inspection form is shown in Figure 1. To find ladder inspection forms tailored to your exact ladder model, visit your manufacturer’s website.

Stepladders

When using stepladders, ensure the spreaders are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is opened.

1. Top: Check the top of the ladder for any missing hardware or looseness. Many roofers rest tools and equipment on the top of the ladder, which may become damaged over time.

2. Pail shelf: Some roofers choose to add a pail shelf to their ladder, which can hold a bucket for tools and materials. Inspect the shelf to make sure it is properly secured to the ladder, doesn’t contain any material cracks, and is not bent out of shape.

3. Spreader: Look at the spreaders to make sure they are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is placed in an open position.

Podium Ladders

On podium ladders, the podium must be carefully inspected, as it often carries most of the user’s weight.

1. Platform: Inspect the platform to be sure it does not contain cracks, does not have missing hardware, and is not bent out of shape. The podium often carries most of the weight of the user, so be aware of any damages in the material.

2. Spreader: Similar to a stepladder, be sure to inspect both the top and the spreaders of the podium ladder.

Extension Ladders

Inspect the rung locks to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

1. Rung locks: The rung locks on an extension ladder are essential to maintaining structural integrity while climbing. Inspect these pieces to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

2. Shoes: Take a look at the shoes of the extension ladder to see whether they are worn, broken or missing. The shoes may experience significant wear over time, as they support the weight and position of the ladder.

3. Rope/pulley: Ensure that the rope is not frayed or damaged and make sure the pulley is not loose, bent or broken before climbing.

Products That Improve Roofing Safety

While ladder inspections will protect against equipment failure, safety accessories can complement these efforts and provide additional safety measures by making ladders more stable and secure. To combat the possibility of slips and falls from ladders, especially in rainy weather, manufacturers now offer ladders with slip-resistant treads on ladder steps and non-marring rubber foot pads to maximize a ladder’s ground contact.

Roofing professionals working at the edge of a low-height roof may consider utilizing a podium-style ladder with an extra-wide platform step to support a greater range of motion and stability while working. Hardware enhancements, such as shatter-proof locks and sturdy latch designs, enhance the durability of equipment. A ladder leveler is another accessory that can help prevent accidents. It attaches to the bottom of a ladder and helps provide an evenly supported working surface when working on sloped ground or a staircase.

Use of Fall Protection Equipment and Ladders

Roofing professionals may find themselves using fall protection equipment in tandem with extension ladders as they transition from standing on a ladder to standing on a roof. This is especially the case with high-sloped roofs, which require additional safety protocols to reduce the risk of injury.

OSHA specifies that a professional working on a steep roof must be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. When on a low-slope roof that features an unprotected edge 6 or more feet above a lower level, professionals must use fall protection. Below are three common scenarios in which roofers should consider using fall protection equipment.

When standing next to:

1. An unprotected edge — any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a walking work surface where there is no wall or guardrail system of at least 39 inches.

2. A leading edge — the edge of a floor, roof or deck, which changes location as additional floors, roofs, decking or sections are placed, formed or constructed.

3. Holes — including skylight roof openings.

Just as it’s important for roofing professionals to be trained in proper ladder use, fall protection training carries the same weight. All roofing professionals should have an understanding of the primary components of a secure fall protection system and how they work in tandem to ensure a user’s safety. The graphic in Figure 2 demonstrates the correct positioning of a fall protection anchorage, a connecting device, and a harness.

Fall Protection Inspection Checklist

Just like ladders, fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use, as broken or degraded equipment will not ensure the user’s safety. When inspecting a harness, it’s important to watch out for the following five items:

1. Fraying in the material.

2. Significant discoloration of materials (especially around clasps and joints).

3. Rusting of metal appliances.

4. Missing rings and buckles.

5. Excessive dirt or grease (this can be removed with warm, soapy water).

If any of the above items are found, the harness should not be used. It should be immediately taken out of service and removed from the jobsite. It may sound obvious, but simply wearing fall protection gear — even gear that passes your checklist — doesn’t automatically protect the user. Proper positioning must also be inspected after the worker has put on the harness. Roofers can self-inspect or use a buddy system to ensure maximum protection.

1. Make sure the harness’s centered chest strap has been properly fitted and routed. The chest strap should always be located at the sternum. Loose straps can cause injury, and the mispositioning of your straps could result in gear failure.

2. Connecting devices must be self-locking and closing, require a minimum of two separate steps for release and a 5,000-pound minimum breaking strength.

3. Always use a 3-foot lanyard and ensure your vertical lifelines are above the D-ring or adjusted for safe reach as you move.

Create Your Own Culture of Safety

In a high-risk profession like roofing, a commitment to safety is essential. This often begins and ends with equipment use training, which educates workers on the proper way to use a ladder or fall protection equipment. While this is an essential step in creating a safe environment, both business owners and roofing contractors can take safety a step further by introducing equipment inspections as a part of your jobsite protocols. Taking the time before each use to scan equipment for flaws has the potential to save lives.

Be sure to include inspections as part of your next safety training and consider printing off these important safety checklists to keep on hand. While roofing professionals may face many hazards at work, the one thing that can be controlled is your commitment to equipment safety.

Safety Resources:

For free online ladder safety and fall protection safety training, please visit Werner Ladder’s website, www.wernerco.com/us/support/training.

For more information on ladder safety and to review comprehensive literature and other safety resources, visit OSHA’s Portable Ladder Safety guide, www.osha.gov/Publications/portable_ladder_qc.html.

About the author: Chad D. Lingerfelt is the National Safety Training Manager at WernerCo. In this role, he oversees all of the Fall Protection and Ladder Safety Training. For the past 32 years, he has worked in the safety field making sure everyone goes home at the end of the day. For more information, visit www.wernerco.com/us.

Three Key Questions About OSHA Inspections

OSHA will investigate a jobsite for a number of reasons. A representative from OSHA will show up if an employee has issued a complaint against you, if there is a recent fatality, or if there is an imminent threat they have identified. The dangers of fall-related injuries in the industry have been well documented, and this has prompted inspectors in your area to be on the lookout for roofers. Additionally, roofers are the easiest to cite due to the fact that roofing is a highly visible construction trade and an inspector does not have to use much effort to determine the likelihood of a dangerous situation that needs inspecting.

OSHA inspections can be stressful, but they can be less stressful if you know your rights and the proper procedures to follow during an inspection. Here are the answers to the most common questions I encounter when it comes to OSHA inspections.

Question #1: Do I have to comply, and what happens if I refuse OSHA access?

First and foremost, you need to know that OSHA has a legal right to inspect your jobsite. OSHA has what is called “administrative probable cause” to inspect and investigate your project. OSHA’s probable cause is more easily obtained than that of other agencies. An officer of a city, state, or federal law enforcement agency needs a much more specific probable cause to enter a private citizen’s property. This is not the case with OSHA. When an active construction project is taking place, there is an inherent risk of danger and injury, and this gives OSHA all the administrative probable cause they need.

This is not to say that you and your site superintendent do not have the right to deny OSHA access to the project and demand that they get a warrant. The site superintendent has the option to consent to OSHA’s inspection or deny them access to the project. The superintendent is well within his or her rights to tell the inspector to get a warrant. However, if you tell OSHA to get a warrant, they most certainly will. Because of OSHA’s broad power to oversee safety within the United States, they can obtain a warrant from a judge or magistrate. Once OSHA obtains a warrant for a site inspection, their inspection can become much more invasive. This means that OSHA inspectors can get permission from a judge to examine documents, conduct extensive interviews, and also perform scientific tests on items such as air quality, presence of combustible material, or any other danger.

The bottom line is that it is rarely a good idea to tell an OSHA compliance officer to get a warrant. The reasoning behind this has to do with the scope of OSHA’s inspection rights under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR demands that OSHA’s inspection be “reasonable.” This essentially means that they are limited to inspect only the workers, equipment, and materials which are within “plain sight.” “Plain sight” is a doctrine borrowed from criminal law and the Fourth amendment, which says that a government agent may not sample or manipulate anything that is not within his or her reasonable line of sight. If an agent violates this doctrine, it is possible that all the information they obtained during the inspection may be suspect.

Question #2: What should I do during the inspection, and are there areas I can prevent OSHA from viewing?

When OSHA is on site, the superintendent should remain alert, aware, and advocate for his or her company. The superintendent has specific rights granted to them under the CFR, and they must use those rights in order to protect themselves, the business, and the men and women who rely on that business for their livelihood.

The superintendent has the right to accompany the inspectors wherever they go on site, and he or she should do so. The inspector should be followed on the roof, through the rafters, and wherever else they intend to go. The superintendent also needs to ask a few key questions of the inspector and needs to ask them often. Mainly, he or she needs to know why OSHA is there. What is the scope of their investigation? What specifically are they there to see? Once the superintendent knows what OSHA wants, he or she can then limit them to what they can see. If an inspector attempts to go outside that scope, then the superintendent needs to notify them immediately.

Question #3: What happens during the inspection?

During the inspection, the OSHA compliance officer will make a walkthrough of the project. The inspector’s main focus is usually on fall protection equipment and fall protection practices of the crew. Always make sure every harness, rope, and lanyard on site is properly maintained. If a harness has been previously impacted, it does not need to be on a jobsite. Such equipment should be discarded and replaced. Roofers are cited far too often because an old harness or frayed rope stays on a truck when it should have been discarded. This is an easy citation to avoid. Throughout the inspection, the OSHA officer may perform brief interviews with the crew and question crew members on various issues relating to the inspection. OSHA has the right under the CFR to perform these interviews in private, away from the superintendent. Although the questioning can be private, it must also be brief. The superintendent needs to object to any questioning that goes on for an excessive amount of time.

Next, an OSHA inspector may ask to interview the managers and superintendents on site. This is a common practice, and OSHA inspectors are within their rights granted by the CFR to request such an interview; however, company managers have the right to refuse an interview without counsel present. This is important to remember because poor statements about safety from a crewman can hurt your case, but poor statements about safety from a supervisor can destroy your case. The only discussion going on between a supervisor and an OSHA compliance office during the walkthrough inspection should involve the scope of the inspection. The superintendent should not answer any questions regarding safety protocols, equipment, or practices without the assistance of counsel. If OSHA wants to speak with a manager, supervisor, or superintendent, they must do so with an attorney present. Paying for a lawyer may be expensive, but paying for a “willful” OSHA citation can bankrupt a roofing company.

Remember Your Rights

An OSHA inspection can be a trying and frustrating time. A roofing contractor’s best defenses against costly citations are to teach satisfactory safety techniques within the crew; update and maintain the required safety equipment; ensure everyone is aware of the jobsite-specific safety plan; and remember their rights when OSHA visits the jobsite.

About the author: Anthony Tilton, Partner at Cotney Construction Law, focuses on all aspects of construction law and works primarily on matters relating to OSHA defense. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Bedside Manner

About a decade ago I had to find a new doctor. While researching doctors on the internet, I stumbled onto to a bunch of articles about the decision-making process of patients. Surveys asked patients which traits they looked for in a doctor and which factor was most important when choosing their physician. As I remember it, the answers varied quite a bit; some looked for certain areas of expertise, while others stressed an affiliation with a local hospital. Referrals from a trusted source were the most important criterion for some people, while others pointed to compatibility with their insurance carrier as the key factor.

While the reasons for initially choosing a doctor were all over the map, there was one overwhelming reason patients gave for staying with their doctors: their ability to communicate with them, encourage them, and explain a diagnosis or treatment options — otherwise known as their “bedside manner.”

I thought of those surveys as I spoke to the contractors who worked on the health care projects profiled in this issue. In many ways the dynamic was similar to that of doctor and patient. Whether it was a new construction project or a roof replacement, the owners of the health care facility needed an expert opinion. For the contractors profiled in this issue, technical competence, quality workmanship and experience were all extremely important. But all of these contractors also stressed the importance of communication — with the building owner, the manufacturer’s rep, the facility manager, their own crews and members of other trades. Throughout the job, they discussed what was necessary to eliminate or minimize disruptions for all involved — including patients, visitors and guests.

For Jason Carruth of Advanced Roofing, the task was especially tough, as his re-roofing project at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, placed his crews right above the main entrance of a busy hospital — and its neonatal intensive care unit. When asked why the project was a success despite its challenges, Carruth replied, “The communication between the manufacturer’s rep, the owners and ourselves was excellent. Pre-planning is everything. When the key players on a job are all on the same page, that’s when a project ends up being successful.”

A good bedside manner keeps patients coming back to their doctors. It can lead to more business for roofing contractors as well.

Witness Statements and OSHA Inspections

During any OSHA inspection, the Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) will more than likely take witness testimony from crew members that are on site. This CSHO will hand-write the interview answers and ask the employee to sign the witness statement. Most employers and employees do not understand their rights during an OSHA inspection and do not know that they are not required to sign witness statements. This article explores the use of witness statements by OSHA and suggests alternatives to signing a witness statement.

First and foremost, it should be noted that all members of management, including officers, directors, and owners, have the right to have counsel present during any OSHA interview. In addition, any supervisory employee is also considered part of management, and therefore has the ability to have counsel present during the interviews. When OSHA inspects a jobsite, supervisory employees such as crew leaders, foremen, superintendents, and/or project managers should assert their right to have counsel present before giving any testimony to OSHA. In other words, the supervisor should state their name, position and assert the right to counsel. This will give the individual an opportunity to discuss the alleged violations with management and counsel prior to being interviewed. It will also allow management and counsel to be present during the interviews. Generally, these interviews occur at counsel’s office or OSHA’s area office rather than the jobsite, thereby limiting exposure to additional potential violations.

With regard to crew member interviews, management and counsel for management cannot be present during non-supervisory employee interviews. However, if the employee requests that counsel be present for the interview, OSHA must allow counsel to be present. During the interviews, OSHA will ask a variety of questions regarding safety training and jobsite-specific acts or omissions. For example, common safety training questions include how to properly tie off, use personal protective equipment (PPE), properly install anchor points, properly tie off ladders, knowledge about hydration and water breaks, knowledge regarding risks associated with swing radius, inhalation of chemicals and/or silica, as well as other potential hazards.

The jobsite-specific questions will focus on the who, where, when, what and how. In particular, questions will be asked to employees regarding the training they received and commands they received on the date of the incident. For example, if employees are not properly tied off as required, the CSHO will ask whether employees were instructed to tie off on the date of the inspection, whether supervisory employees inspected the crew members during construction, and the reason(s) why employees were not tied off. OSHA often asks whether employees were not wearing fall protection because they were told to complete work at an accelerated pace or to meet certain schedule obligations. If an employee answers in the affirmative, it could be damaging to the employer.

While the testimony is being taken, the CSHO will be drafting a witness statement, which generally contains self-serving declarations for purposes of prosecuting the employer. No one is required to sign a witness statement. Both supervisory and non-supervisory employees can refuse to sign witness statements. The CSHO may take his/her own notes and use that as evidence or have the local area office issue a subpoena requiring that his/her testimony be taken under oath. This delay in obtaining testimony may be beneficial for the employer because it will allow the employee to have the opportunity to think about his/her answers and be in a better mindset for purposes of providing testimony. It also gives counsel and management an opportunity to speak with and prepare the employee for the interview if he or she wishes to do so. Obviously, regardless of when testimony is provided, all employees must always tell the truth.

OSHA relies heavily upon the witness statements during inspections to issue citations. Employees need to understand that interviews are voluntary and that they have the right to decline the interview outright. In the absence of a subpoena, an interviewee cannot be compelled to do anything during the voluntary interview. Additionally, an employee also has the right to refuse the recording of an interview, whether video or audio, and has the right to take a break from the interview at any time.

As always, nothing in this article is meant to suggest that any employer should not fully comply 100 percent with OSHA rules and standards. However, it is important to understand and assert your rights while an inspection is being performed to help limit exposure to OSHA citations.

About the author: Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Construction Law, is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, contact the author at 866-303-5868 or www.cotneycl.com.

Improve Commercial Roof Performance With Staggered Insulation Layers

Photo: Hunter Panels

Selecting the right components for a project can dramatically improve the performance and longevity of the overall building. In a commercial roofing project, the chosen insulation and the installation technique are critical to a building’s resilience and thermal efficiency.

From a physics standpoint, energy flows from a region of high to low potential (from warm to cold). Therefore, a significant amount of heat can leave a building through an inadequately insulated roof assembly during heating season (winter) and enter a building through an inadequately insulated roof assembly during cooling season (summer). A building with an under-insulated roof assembly may require more energy to compensate for these heat gains and losses.

The benefits of installing multiple, staggered layers of rigid board insulation have been well known for years. Industry authorities, including National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Canadian Roofing Contractor Association (CRCA) and International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC), formerly RCI, Inc., have recognized these benefits; and contractors, designers and specifiers have followed the roofing industry’s long-standing recommendation for the installation of staggered insulation layers.

Using the optimal roof insulation product also will impact performance. Polyiso insulation offers key advantages in meeting stricter building standards and improving energy efficiency. Polyiso has a high design R-value compared to XPS, EPS, and mineral wool board. Lightweight and easy to trim, polyiso can be layered to reach the desired R-values without being cumbersome to install.

Why Are Multiple, Staggered Layers of Insulation Important?

In 2015, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) increased the R-value requirements for the opaque thermal envelope in many climate zones across the United States. As a practical matter, most roofs will require two or more layers of insulation to meet the local energy code requirements. In the 2018 version, the IECC was updated with specific installation requirements for continuous roof insulation. The 2018 IECC explicitly calls for continuous insulation board to be installed “in not less than 2 layers and the edge joints between each layer of insulation shall be staggered” (Section C402.2.1 Roof assembly). 

Figure 1. Multiple, staggered layers of insulation can minimize air infiltration and reduce or prevent condensation in the roof system.

Staggering the joints of continuous insulation layers offer a number of benefits:

· Increased thermal performance/reduced thermal loss: The staggered joints on multiple layers of insulation offset gaps where heat could flow between adjacent boards. The staggered approach to installing insulation reduces thermal bridging in the roof assembly. A fact sheet on roof insulation published by Johns Manville (RS-7386) notes that as much as 8 percent of the thermal efficiency of insulation can be lost through the joints and exposed fasteners of installations that use only a single layer of insulation.

· Air intrusion: When conditioned air enters the building envelope, often because of pressure gradients, it carries moisture into the roofing system. This moisture will undermine optimal performance. A peer-reviewed study on air intrusion impacts in seam-fastened mechanically attached roofing systems showed that air intrusion was minimized by nearly 60 percent when the insulation joints were staggered between multiple layers of insulation. (See “Air Intrusion Impacts in Seam-Fastened, Mechanically Attached Roofing Systems,” by By Suda Molleti, PEng; Bas Baskaran, PEng; and Pascal Beaulieu, www.iibec.org.)

Additionally, by limiting the flow of air and moisture through a roof system, staggered layers of insulation in a roof assembly can reduce and/or prevent condensation. The condensed moisture if allowed to remain and accumulate in the system can damage the substrate and potentially shorten the service life of a roof. A properly insulated roof can also prevent the onset of condensation by effectively managing the dew-point within the roof assembly. 

· Resilient roof assemblies: Staggered joints can reduce the stress put on a single insulation layer and distribute that stress more evenly over multiple, thinner insulation joints. For example, in an adhered roof system, the installation of multiple layers of insulation can minimize the potential for membrane splitting. In this system, the upper layer(s) of insulation can protect the membrane from potential physical damage caused by fasteners that are used to attach the bottom layer of insulation to the roof deck.

· Ponding water: Roof slope is often created through the use of tapered insulation systems. These systems offer an opportunity to stagger the joints by offsetting insulation layers and improve overall energy performance of a system. If the added insulation layer is tapered, the slope provided can improve drainage performance of the roof. Rainwater that does not drain and remains standing, collects dirt and debris that can damage or accelerate erosion of roof covering. Integrating tapered polyiso system with staggered joints into a roof’s design will not only improve the thermal performance but also can improve drainage and thus overall longevity of the system.

· Puncture resistance: Roof cover boards are commonly installed to provide a suitable substrate for membrane attachment as well as protect the roof assembly from puncture and foot traffic. When using products like polyiso high-density roof cover boards, the joints should also be staggered with the underlying roof insulation. This ensures the benefits discussed above are preserved in systems utilizing cover boards.

Installation Best Practices Are Keys For Success

A properly designed roof system that utilizes high-performance polyiso insulation products is a strong foundation (or cover) for energy-efficient and sustainable construction. However, the designed performance can only be achieved through proper installation. Implementing industry best practices such as the installation of multiple layers with staggered joints will optimize energy efficiency of the system and will help ensure that the roof system performs during its service life.  

To learn more about the benefits and uses of polyiso insulation,please visit the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association website at www.polyiso.org.

About the author: Marcin Pazera, Ph.D., is the Technical Director for Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA). He coordinates all technical-related activities at PIMA and serves as the primary technical liaison to organizations involved in the development of building standards. For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

Underlayment Designed Metal Roofing Is Suitable For Any Roof Material, Climate

Boral Roofing offers its MetalSeal Underlayment, a high-temperature self-adhered underlayment designed especially for metal roofing but suitable for any roof material in any climate. A high-performance waterproofing material, Boral MetalSeal underlayment provides all-season durable protection, protecting the structure against wind, rain, snow and ice dams by bonding to the base sheet or directly to the roof deck and self-sealing around every fastener penetration. According to the company, Boral MetalSeal is easy to install and eliminates the need for an excessive number of nails, reducing installation time and cost. Great surface traction also enables safer, faster and easier installation for the entire roof. The high-strength woven polyester surface remains intact under high foot traffic and provides UV resistance up to six months.

According to the manufacturer, Boral MetalSeal offers a 30-year limited warranty and may be installed in freezing or hot summer temperatures alike, ensuring the job is completed without weather-induced delay. MetalSeal meets or exceeds all National and Florida building code requirements and is rated up to 260 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes in 216-square-foot rolls for a net two squares.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.boralroof.com

Call: (800) 669-8453

A Little Piece of the Planet

There was an old TV commercial for one of the Big Box stores that really hit me. It was an ad selling garden tools and mulch, and at the end of the commercial, the tagline was something like this: “It’s not just your yard. It’s your own little piece of the planet.”

That’s how I remember it, anyway. And that’s weird for several reasons, including the fact that I almost never watch commercials (that’s what the remote control is for), and I’m certainly not a huge fan of yard work. I am, however, ridiculously attached to the small scrap of grass behind our house that is our backyard.

When the weather cooperates, our yard makes our house seem ten times bigger. The backyard provides more usable space, a place to relax and a little touch of Mother Nature. It’s a literal breath of fresh air.

I was reminded of how much I miss our backyard during the winter while working on this issue, which spotlights green roofs. I can understand the desire to increase usable space, but vegetative systems can bring so much more to the rooftop than aesthetics. They can help minimize storm water runoff, expand the natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and help roofs perform more efficiently over a longer lifespan. From The Wharf in D.C. to a Manhattan skyscraper to home on an island in the state of Washington, the green roofs profiled in this issue are getting attention for all the right reasons.

When it comes to providing a haven for the birds and the bees, green roofs are the stars of the show, but every roof has the potential to last longer, conserve energy and help the planet. The industry is taking a leading role in educating the public and government on the benefits of long-lasting, high-performing roofs. In this issue, Tom Hutchinson, Louisa Hart and Marcin Pazera explore the importance of designing and installing thermally efficient products and systems — and documenting their performance.

The roof is the most crucial part of the building envelope, and roof performance is a critical component of a building’s energy footprint. In this industry, durability and sustainability have become the watchwords. And that’s important because when you pull up Google Earth on your computer, what do you see? Roofs.

It’s not just your roof. It’s your own little piece of the planet.

Cole Roofing Celebrates its Centennial Anniversary

Cole Roofing focuses on commercial roofing work, with a diverse portfolio that includes single ply, built-up roofing, metal, wall panels, and renewable energy systems. Photos: Cole Roofing Company Inc.

Cole Roofing Company is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Founded in 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland, the company currently employs more than 100 workers and focuses on commercial roofing work, with a diverse portfolio that includes single ply, built-up roofing, metal, wall panels, and renewable energy systems.

In 2012, William Robert Cole, known as Billy, took over the helm of the company from his father, William Roland Cole, known as Bill. Billy Cole represents the fourth generation of his family to run the business. As the company commemorated this milestone, Bill and Billy Cole shared their memories of the company and insights on the industry with Roofing.

100 Years of History

Bill’s grandfather, John H. Cole Sr., founded the company as John H. Cole & Sons after World War I. “My grandfather started the business in his basement making ductwork for home furnaces,” Bill says.

The business expanded to include gutters and downspouts, which led to installing shingle roofing. “Near the end of World War WII, my grandfather died suddenly,” Bill recalls. “All three of the older sons were off in the military. My grandmother, Mary Cole, ran the business for about two years until the war ended and the sons returned.”

Two of Mary’s sons, John and Bud Cole, took over the business after the war. In the 50s, the company started installing BUR on row houses in Baltimore. In the 60s, at Bud’s initiative, the company began doing commercial work. Bud bought out his brother in the mid-60s, and the commercial side of the business continued to grow as the residential side tapered off.

John H. Cole Sr. founded the company as John H. Cole & Sons in 1919.

“In the late 70s, I saw an opportunity with the introduction of single-ply membranes,” Bill says. “We shut down our residential side and trained all our steep roofers to install single-ply roofing.”

Bill Cole became president of the company in 1989 and continued to build the company, expanding into metal roofing. After years of being known as Cole Roofing, the company officially changed its name from John H. Cole & Sons to Cole Roofing Company Inc. in 1998. The business has continued to diversify in the 21st century, expanding into areas including green roofs, photovoltaic systems and metal wall panels. Bill served as president until 2012, when Billy was named president; Bill remains with the company as senior vice president.

Following in Their Father’s Footsteps

Bill remembers being exposed to the business at an early age. “Sometimes on Saturdays when I was 10 or 12, my dad would go out and look at jobs, and sometimes he would take me with him,” Bill notes. He began working summers at the company in 1971 after his sophomore year of high school. His starting wage was $2.75 an hour. He was surprised to find out the laborer working alongside him — a college student — was making $3 an hour. “I stormed into my dad’s office to ask him what the heck was going on,” Bill recalls. “My dad didn’t even blink. He said, ‘Well, one day you’ll be able to tell people you truly started at the bottom.’”

Cole Roofing Company is a fourth-generation family business. Billy Cole (left) is the company’s president. His father, Bill Cole (right), the former president, remains with the company as senior vice president.

Bill worked on some of the company’s high-profile projects, including Baltimore City Hall, the National Aquarium, M&T Bank Stadium and the U.S. Naval Academy. “We did almost all of the slate roofs at the Naval Academy,” he notes. “Over the years, we did a tremendous amount of work down there. We don’t do much slate anymore, but back in its heyday, in the late 50s and 60s, we did a lot of slate work.”

Billy got his first opportunity to work for the company at age 13, when he did odd jobs including cleaning up the yard and cutting the grass. “I moved on to destroying things with fork lifts, and then when I got my driver’s license, I moved on to destroying things with pickup trucks,” Billy explains. “Thank goodness my dad was patient.”

Cole Roofing Company’s leadership team includes (from left) Billy Cole, Bill Cole and Jim Layman.

Billy worked summers for Cole Roofing while in high school and continued to work at the company while taking night courses at nearby Towson University. He decided to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, and he’s found it a rewarding experience.

“I had the fortunate opportunity to learn a lot about succession planning and running a family business from my grandfather and father,” Billy says. “I like what I do. Roofing fills this need for people. You’re genuinely helping them when they need it the most. People do need an expert to help them at that point, when water is coming in their building and preventing them from functioning. It ranks high on their crisis level.”

Adapting to a Changing World

Bill and Billy Cole believe the company has thrived by staying on the leading edge — and not the bleeding edge — of change in the industry. “We have always kept an eye toward the future,” notes Bill. “We don’t always want to be the first — let someone else work the bugs out — but we are never far behind.”

The Coles point to three examples of key technological advancements over the years that benefitted the company: embracing single-ply membranes, the early adoption of computers, and taking a leading role in roof-related renewable energy.

The demand for green roofs has surged in the Baltimore and D.C. markets, and Cole Roofing adapted to help customers meet their needs.

“The biggest change during my time was the introduction of single-ply membranes,” Bill says. “We always treated single ply as a separate division because in our opinion the skill set was so different. Retraining our steep roofers to be single-ply roofers was a great move for the guys and the company.”

While some companies abandoned built-up roofing entirely, Cole Roofing’s approach kept BUR as a viable part of the company’s portfolio. “Built-up roofing never went away from Cole Roofing,” Bill says. “As a result of that, we were able to use our single-ply division to grow the company. We never gave up on built-up roofing. It has stood the test of time.”

Bill readily admits that adding computers benefitted the business, but he was not fond of the idea at first. The company introduced computers to the accounting department, and it snowballed from there. “We fought that change like almost every other contractor I know,” Bill says. “Once we got into that world, it was wonderful. Eventually they put a computer on my desk and I became the spread sheet king. For a ten-year period, it really gave us a leg up on the competition.”

Under Billy’s leadership, the company has focused on further upgrading its computer capabilities. Billy also spearheaded a program to focus on living roofs and renewable energy, including photovoltaics.

“Historically, I saw where my grandfather and father felt it was important that if there was a reliable, trustworthy product that got introduced into the roofing universe, we needed to be able to provide that for our customers,” Billy says. “In the early 2000s, vegetative roofs started to pop up, and that made sense to us. We believed there was a way to do it that would maintain the integrity of the roof and still provide some ancillary benefits.”

Aided by legislation in the Baltimore and D.C. markets promoting storm water management, the green roof market surged. “That opened our eyes to the concept of using the roof as a platform — as something other than the roof being just an umbrella for your building,” Billy recalls. “Once I learned about solar and understood the economics and the return, that made me gravitate toward the idea of building small power plants on top of people’s buildings.”

A Culture of Safety

For all of the company’s accomplishments, there is one that stands above the rest, according to the Coles: the development of a comprehensive safety and loss prevention program.

“Cole was a leader in introducing real safety to the roofing industry,” Bill says. “It all started when I met an insurance consultant named Ben Tyler in the late 70s. He convinced me that we should be partners with our insurance companies, not adversaries. I put together a subcommittee of field employees and supervisors, and with guidance from Ben we built a comprehensive loss control program.”

The subcommittee developed two manuals — a company handbook and a safety handbook — and the experience changed the company. “It was an eye-opener, but we saw results,” Bill says. “We’ve been told by the insurance companies that we have dealt with over the years our experience mod was much lower than any other roofers that they knew.”

Cole Roofing was asked to give a presentation about its loss control program at the NRCA convention in the mid 80s. “I got to know some of my competitors, and I began to share some of the stuff we were doing,” Bill remembers. “People asked us to share our program with them, and we freely did that. A lot of companies are probably still running a version of the Cole Roofing safety program today.”

Cole Roofing now employs a full-time loss control manager and two quality control inspectors. “We all put safety first and provide support, training, and accountability to the field team,” Billy says. “The field team has a culture of brotherhood. They all look out for one another and are encouraged to hold each other accountable, regardless of rank, to be safe and follow the rules. We start with focusing on getting everyone back to their family every day; compliance is a byproduct.”

Family Matters

Since announcing the 100th anniversary, the Coles have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from former employees and competitors alike. Bill chalks his company’s successful track record to “keeping it simple.” He also points to a company culture that emphasizes a strong work ethic and a commitment to its employees.

“Somewhere along the line, my dad made it clear to me that our biggest asset in our company was its employees,” Bill says. “Running a family business is not easy. We’ve had our trials and tribulations. I think the answer for us is that we have always treated our employees as family, which better prepares us to deal with our own family.”

For Billy, summing up the formula for the company’s success is simple: “We put our integrity first.”