Focused on Proper Residential Attic Ventilation, Roofing Contractors Documented These Mistakes

Since 1998 our best practices in residential attic ventilation seminars have featured the real-world situations roofing contractors are seeing. Here we cover a handful of attic ventilation mistakes contractors found in the field. (Note: Some photos show multiple mistakes but were chosen to highlight one.)

Problem: Bagged Wind Turbines Suffocate the Attic Airflow

Solution: Unbag the wind turbines.

Photo: Jake Jacobson, SF5 Construction, LLC, Little Elm, Texas

It’s impossible for a covered attic exhaust vent to work if it’s smothered under a bag. Attic ventilation is supposed to provide year-round benefits, fighting heat buildup in the warmer weather and moisture buildup in the colder weather. It’s sometimes forgotten (and maybe never known) that occupants of a house generate water vapor daily through activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, breathing, etc. It amounts to 2-4 gallons per day for the average family of four. That warm, moist air can make its way into the colder attic in the winter months, where it can condense and cause trouble as water droplets and frost.

Problem: Bath Fan Ductwork Terminating in the Attic Damages Roof

Solution: Run the bath fan ductwork either vertically through the roof or out the side gable wall.

Photo: Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exterior Services, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina

Even a perfectly balanced attic ventilation system cannot handle the quantity of moisture dumped into the attic by the bath fan. It overwhelms the system. That moisture should be vented directly to the outdoors without any pitstops into the attic. In the home pictured here, Trevor Atwell found three bathroom fans venting directly into the attic. He also found a lot of rotted sheathing.

Problem: Painted Soffit Vents Result in Reduced Intake Airflow

Solution: Buy pre-painted soffits, or paint them more carefully, or replace them with new vents.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Soffit vents have a specified amount of Net Free Area (airflow capability) when they are manufactured. For example, 9 square inches of NFA per linear foot. That amount, by the way, would balance nicely with a ridge vent (exhaust vent) that is capable of 18 square inches of Net Free Area per linear foot (9 NFA at the soffit on the left of the ridge vent + 9 NFA at the soffit on the ridge of the ridge vent = 18 NFA at the peak of the roof). But the airflow capability of the soffit is reduced if the vent openings become clogged or blocked because of a careless paint job. While house exterior colors are important, don’t sacrifice attic ventilation performance. It’s possible to have both a nicely painted soffit and it’s full, intended net free area (airflow capability).

Problem: Two Rows of Box Vents = One Path of Inefficient Airflow

Solution: Always keep attic exhaust vents in one row.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Let’s cut to the chase. If it takes two rows of attic exhaust vents to meet the attic’s exhaust ventilation needs, it’s time to find another category of exhaust (maybe horizontal ridge vent; or diagonal hip ridge vent; or a combination of horizontal and diagonal ridge vent; or a power fan). But when attic exhaust vents are aligned in two rows, the primary path of the airflow will be from one row to the next because air will allows follow the path of least resistance seeking the closest exit point from its entry point. The intake vents in the soffit or low on the roof’s edge are supposed to be the intake vents. The pictured scenario here is producing inefficient attic airflow and could cause one row of box vents to ingest weather.

Problem: Mixed Types of Attic Exhaust Vents = Problematic Airflow

Solution: Only use one type of attic exhaust vent on the same roof above a common attic.

Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Regardless what combination of two or more different types of attic exhaust vents either the homeowner demands (we’ve heard the stories) or a well-intended but misguided roofing contractor recommends (it’s happening), do not mix two different types of attic exhaust vents on the same roof above a common attic. Pictured here are wind turbines with ridge vents; box vents with ridge vents; solar powered fans with box vents; and traditional electric power fans with ridge vents. Now shown is the all-time classic: Gable-end louvers with any other type of attic exhaust.

When attic exhaust types are mixed, it short-circuits the airflow system because air always follows the path of least resistance. The air is looking for the easiest, least difficult exit path. That path is inevitably the distance between the two types of attic exhaust vents because they are closest to each other. That means the airflow will be concentrated in that area of the attic; which leaves significant areas of the attic incorrectly vented. The intake vents low on the roof’s edge or in the soffit/overhang have been pretty much bypassed. Furthermore, if one of the exhaust vents is suddenly an intake vent, does than mean it’s ingesting weather along with the air? You do not want to find out.

Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exteriors, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina.

About the author: Paul Scelsi is marketing communications manager at Air Vent Inc., the leader of its Attic Ventilation: Ask the Expert in-person seminars, and the host of the podcast “Airing it out with Air Vent.” He’s also chairman the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association Ventilation Task Force and the author of the book Grab and Hold Their Attention: Creating and Delivering Presentations that Move Your Audience to Action. For more information about the company, visit www.airvent.com.

Pieces of History

A home built in 1879. A hotel built in 1902. An industrial site that produced destroyers during World War II. What do these sites have in common? Roofs that stood the test of time, and then were recently restored with modern systems that preserve the historic integrity of the structures.

If you’re a bit of a pessimist, sometimes you might find yourself wondering how any roof gets successfully replaced. Re-roofing involves a coordinated effort that typically includes manufacturers, distributors, contractors and installation crews. Factor in architects, consultants, building owners, tenants, and members of other trades, and the odds of pleasing everyone increase exponentially. When you’re talking about a historic restoration project, the degree of difficulty gets even tougher, as historical societies and other organizations can have rigid standards designed to guarantee the building maintains its historic authenticity.

Historic projects can show the roofing industry at its best, and in this issue, you’ll find three case studies documenting roofs being restored on structures that have been around well over a century.

When the original soldered flat-panel roof on the historic Dilley-Tinnin home in Georgetown, Texas was damaged by lightning, crews from Texas Traditions Roofing were faced with a difficult, labor-intensive puzzle as they installed a double-lock standing seam roof system on multiple intersecting roof planes with low-slope transitions.

On the Chippewa Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Bloxsom Roofing faced a challenging re-roofing project and also found themselves facing turn-of-the-century problems on an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. The roofing materials were delivered by ferry and transported to the jobsite by a team of horses.

At historic Pier 70 in San Francisco, an ambitious restoration project converted an empty industrial facility into a modern office complex. But ensuring occupant comfort proved a difficult task in a building without air conditioning. Central Coating Company devised a plan to install a spray foam roofing system on the uninsulated metal roof to minimize heat gain and ensure the historic look of the building.

These stories share common themes, including the importance of quality craftsmanship, then and now. In the case of Pier 70, Central Coating Company President Luke Nolan points out that aside from a few persistent leaks, the original corrugated metal roof was in pretty good shape.

“For us as a foam roofing contractor, we typically do roofing projects that have the benefit of adding insulation to the building,” Nolan said. “This one was different in that we were doing a foam roofing project that was really an insulation job.”

Safety Obligations Under the OSH Act Can Extend to Non-Employees and Other Trades

The nature of roofing (particularly re-roofing) frequently involves the presence of non-employees on or around active construction sites. This is true in both the residential and commercial contexts. However, the risk increases significantly on commercial projects, such as retail and mixed-use projects, where many parties can be present, including the property owners’ customers and employees, as well as other trades working at the project simultaneously.

As such, it is essential that roofing contractors understand the scope of their obligations to non-employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). While accidents and injuries can certainly trigger an investigation by OSHA, employers are frequently charged with violations of the OSH Act for merely failing to implement appropriate procedures. Not to be taken lightly, OSHA citations carry significant consequences, including penalties of up to $134,937 per violation, as well as creating a stigma against the company and loss of future opportunities. Moreover, company owners may not always be free to “walk away” from these consequences by closing the business (a common misbelief in the industry).

In the OSH Act, Congress authorized the Secretary of Labor to develop safety and health standards (OSHA regulations). One of the most important of these standards to contractors, arguably, is 29 CFR 1910.12, which provides: “Each employer shall protect the employment and places of employment of each of his employees engaged in construction work.” [Emphasis added.] This provision, like OSHA’s general duty clause, seems to imply that OSHA-imposed obligations extend only to an employer’s own employees. However, this is frequently not the case.

For many decades, the phrase “his employees” has been a major point of contention because OSHA has frequently penalized employers for hazards which did not affect the employers’ own employees. While early court decisions initially rejected OSHA’s imposition of liability in these circumstances, the tide eventually shifted, and now the opposite is true. Today, most courts will impose liability under OSHA’s “Multi-Employer Citation Policy” where the contractor “could reasonably be expected to prevent or detect and abate the violations due to its supervisory authority and control over the worksite.” This is true even where the contractor’s own employees were completely unaffected, or even absent when the hazard occurred.

While the borders of OSHA’s policy are unclear and still developing, contractors should at least suspect they may be held responsible for the safety violations at a jobsite if they either: (1) created the hazard; or (2) exercised some degree of control over the subject worksite. With that in mind, roofing contractors can address this risk preemptively by starting with a plan to mitigate hazards and potential liability on their jobsites.

Identifying Risk

One method of doing so is by creating a Jobsite Hazard Analysis (JHA). According to OSHA, a JHA “is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur.” By identifying risks, such as exposure of the public and other trades to an active construction site, roofing contractors can implement effective measures to mitigate known hazards.

While planning requirements will vary by jobsite, most roofing contractors’ JHA should address the following questions on this topic:

  • Will non-employees be present at the worksite during active construction? Could they gain access without the company’s knowledge or consent?
  • Can measures be taken to reduce or eliminate access to the worksite by non-employees?
  • What types of hazards could non-employees be exposed to? (e.g.,falling debris)
  • What steps will the company take to reduce or eliminate risks to non-employees?

In addition to addressing these risks in company policies, such as JHAs and a safety manual, it is also prudent to include provisions in the company’s contract which seek to limit exposure of non-employees to hazards. For example, the roofing contractor could include a provision in the contract which forbids the property owner’s employees from using certain entrances to the building during specific phases of construction. Roofing contractors may also seek indemnification from owners for claims of third parties based upon third parties’ failure to comply with contractual requirements. 

Under any circumstances, roofing contractors should take a preemptive approach to hazards, understanding the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is especially true in their industry. The first step in this process is assessing and appreciating the risks that safety hazards present. The second is implementing proactive safety policies which seek to eliminate or reduce those risks.

About the author: Travis S. McConnell is a construction law attorney with Cotney Construction Law, LLP. McConnell’s legal practice focuses on all aspects of construction law. He works extensively on matters relating to OSHA defense, which includes the management and development of safety and health strategies for construction contractors across the United States. McConnell’s OSHA practice concentrates on litigation and the appeals of citations involving catastrophic construction related accidents. He can be contacted by email at tmcconnell@CotneyCL.com.

New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits

Malta Dynamics, a full-service manufacturing company specializing in fall protection solutions, offers its New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits. The New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits are designed to simplify the process of outfitting new employees. The kits include all safety materials needed in a convenient carry bag so that there is no delay in production.

The New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits include the following essentials:

  • Full body harness
  • Short- and long-sleeve high-visibility shirts
  • High-visibility surveyor vest
  • Clear and tinted safety glasses
  • Safety gloves
  • White cap-style hard hat
  • Durable carrying bag with handles and detachable, adjustable shoulder strap

According to the company, Malta Dynamics’ equipment is tested to meet safety requirements for OSHA and ANSI, and the New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits offer workers the tools they need to be visible and work safely at heights.

“It’s so important for employees to have their own PPE right now,” Malta Dynamics Sales Manager David Ivey said. “As more people get back to work, we wanted to provide an all-in-one kit to make it easy to gear up and stay safe on the job.”

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.MaltaDynamics.com

Call: (800) 494-1840

Email: Info@MaltaDynamics.com

Social Media for Roofing Industry Professionals

Social media is everywhere — from TikTok videos to Instagram posts to LinkedIn professional updates. Consider these social media statistics:

  • At the end of 2019 the total worldwide population was 7.8 billion people.
  • The internet had 4.54 billion users.
  • There were 3.725 billion social media users, just under 50 percent of the world’s population.

The average person has 7.6 social media accounts and spends a staggering 142 minutes a day on social media, according to Brandwatch.com. Eighty-one percent of small and medium-sized businesses are on social media, and 91 percent of retail brands have two or more social media channels.

If you work in the roofing industry either as a contractor, employee, architect, construction materials manufacturer or consultant, why does social media matter and what platforms are right for you?

Audience

To use social media effectively, you must first understand who you are trying to reach — customers, potential employees, or both. Once you figure out who you want to reach, determine which social media platforms they use. This will tell you where you want to be active. Start with the basics: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (you don’t want to spread yourself too thin). If you have the resources, YouTube and Instagram visuals broaden your potential to reach an even larger audience. According to the construction marketing association, 50 percent of construction marketers say LinkedIn and Facebook are the two most effective channels to reach members of the industry.

Facebook

Facebook is a very dynamic platform, allowing you to highlight your customers, tagging them in your posts and they in turn can engage with your posts (sharing with their friends or asking your company questions, for instance). On Facebook you can also easily include contact information about your firm. (e.g., blogs, e-books).

Twitter

Twitter allows organizations to talk with audiences in a way that other social networks do not. Companies use Twitter to connect with users in real time, answering questions, posting updates, and replying to other posts. You can engage on Twitter by simply “liking” or retweeting content. You can also share short tips and exercise thought-leadership as well as easily connect with other influencers. It’s also a great platform to engage in real time with people live at events.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site which is primarily used for professional networking. LinkedIn currently has more than 575 million registered users and 260 million active users. It is a strong platform for business development. Here, you can connect with like-minded roofing companies and suppliers, list jobs opportunities within your company, network for new projects and share news updates.

Share-Worthy Content

Once you get started, assess your content frequently. A good way to tell whether or not you’re sharing great social media content is to ask yourself this: If I didn’t work for this company, would I look at this post? If the answer is no, it’s a sign you need to revamp your content. Make social media about your audience, not just your business. That way, even if you’re in a highly specialized industry, you can still deliver share-worthy content on social media and continue to build your audience.

Finally, be sure to add visuals — photos, charts or other graphics. Humans are visual creatures, and the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” particularly holds true with social media. Adding a photo that shows your team at work on a roof or a recently completed project will certainly appeal to your audience. You can also consider unique imagery that gives your followers an inside look at your company. Using photos in your posts has been proven to significantly boost engagement.

About the authors: Louisa Hart of Precision Public Relations Inc. provides expertise in media outreach and internal communications for a wide variety of clients in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Hart has taught on the university level, at The American University in Washington, DC, and at the EW Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University.

Mittie Rooney, Principal, Axiom Communications, has expertise in the development and execution of media, relationship marketing, social marketing and public education campaigns for and providing strategic counsel to corporations, technology start-ups, trade associations and the federal government.

Social Media Tips

The following tips should be helpful, whether you are just starting out, or have years of experience navigating the social mediasphere.

1. First, can you describe the “voice” of your social media outreach? This is not necessarily a real person — it probably isn’t — but an ideal representative who can appeal to your audience, using language that they understand and referencing issues or values they share. Is this the voice of your corporate leadership? An employee? What age and gender are they? Are they a friend of the reader? Do they have a good sense of humor? You should be able to define this individual very well and know why he or she will appeal to the audience you are trying to reach. A conversational approach is usually the best way to engage your audience. Humanize your feed, and remember that you are connecting with people, one person at a time.

2. Plan before you start. And if you have already started, assess your social media strategy at least every six months. It’s tempting to let your social media accounts take on a life of their own, but they need the same attention that you give to your other communications outreach tactics. A good place to start: define three actionable, measurable objectives that clearly support your business goals.

3. Decide what constitutes success, and be ruthless about judging your results. You may have a lot of Twitter followers, but if they are not the right people to help you grow your business, then it is wasted effort. Don’t focus on “vanity” metrics. Aggregate numbers mean something, but they don’t tell you everything you need to know about the impact of your social media efforts.

4. Continue to invest in social media and make sure it is absolutely current. Set a minimum of how often you will add new content. And clearly define staff responsibilities for your social media efforts.

5. Don’t forget about video content. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Your smart phone can capture the excitement of a new product launch, or the expertise of your employees in the field. A live feed on Facebook can generate multiple times the engagement of a recorded feed.

6. Cross-promote your social media feeds. You should think of your online presence as an interrelated whole. The “voice” of each platform does not have to be the same, but these voices should talk to each other. Take one piece of content and make it work across all of your social media platforms.

7. Pay attention to hashtags. Identify a set of up to 50 that you will use repeatedly to clarify your brand identity.

8. Publish, and then republish. Most likely much of the material you will generate will be “evergreen” so don’t feel you have to come up with something new every day. In fact, material that repeats your key messages should be used several times.

Construction Contracts and Coronavirus Complications

As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many construction projects around the United States have been, and are being, significantly delayed or curtailed. In many instances, the delays have arisen from supply chain disruptions, state or local government stay-at-home orders, new safety protocols, and workforce disruptions on every level of the construction project — design, field construction, manufacturing, and inspection.

One thing certain to change in the post-COVID-19 world will be protection clauses in construction contracts. Boilerplate legal terms typically couched in fine print, such as “force majeure” and “frustration,” will be closely reviewed by contractors, owners, and their attorneys in the future.

Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the construction contract, the effects of COVID-19 may allow a party to invoke different rights to relief and compensation, or otherwise excuse delays or non-performance. Whether a party to a construction contract will be relieved, compensated, or excused from performance will depend on, among other factors, the language of the force majeure clause, the facts at issue, and the law governing the contract.

Construction businesses should consider the following with regard to current and future contracts:

  • Does the COVID-19 disruption constitute a force majeure event under the contract?
  • Is epidemic, pandemic, or illness specifically identified in the force majeure clause?
  • If not, does COVID-19 fall under some other event often referenced in force majeure clauses, such as an “act of God,” a “natural disaster,” or something beyond the contractors’ control?
  • Does the force majeure clause entitle parties to extensions, termination, or some other form of relief or modification?
  • Does the law that controls the contract — federal, state, or international — reinforce or limit how the force majeure clause is applied?
  • Are there alternate avenues for relief outside of the force majeure clause, such as commercial impracticability or impossibility?
  • How should parties impacted by COVID-19 reserve their rights or document their position?

Force Majeure Clauses: Events and Interpretation

Force majeure clauses set forth certain conditions under which a party is permitted to extend, suspend, or terminate a contract as a result of unexpected and unavoidable events. Under U.S. common and civil law, force majeure protection generally extends to natural and unavoidable catastrophes that impact the parties’ ability to perform their contractual obligations and allocates the risk in such events.

So, what constitutes a force majeure event? Generally, a force majeure event exists where said event is unforeseeable and outside of the contractor’s control. In addition to the specific facts at issue, determining whether a force majeure clause offers relief for such an event will likely depend on three factors: (1) whether the language in the force majeure clause specifically references the event as beyond the parties’ control; (2) whether the force majeure event was unforeseeable; and (3) whether the force majeure event caused the party’s non-performance.

In analyzing the contract language, look to see if the force majeure clause specifically references events like “epidemic,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak of disease.” If so, then COVID-19 is almost certainly covered by that cause. Courts will generally construe the precise language of the force majeure clause to exclude events that are not specifically identified. To that end, if the force majeure clause limits covered events to those involving nature, such as “severe floods,” “hurricanes,” or “earthquakes,” the court may be less likely to find that the parties intended to cover the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of specific language used in construction contracts is critical. Standard form contracts, such as AIA and ConsensusDocs, do not have specific force majeure clauses but do, however, contain excusable delay clauses that could likely be applied to COVID-19 delays. For example, AIA forms generally contain language concerning excusable delays, termination, and suspension of work while ConsensusDocs expressly provide relief for “epidemics” as well as termination and suspension of work.

In some instances, the force majeure clause may contain both specific and broad forms of events and include a catchall provision intended to cover potential scenarios other than specific events. Some courts have deferred to common law principles such as unforeseeability to determine whether the event in question is covered by the contract. There, the determination would ultimately depend on what the parties contemplated and if the parties voluntarily assumed the risk of COVID-19, or, more likely, a general pandemic.

Finally, the force majeure clause may reference “acts of God” as an excusable delay or grounds for suspension or termination of the contract. Whether COVID-19 falls under the definition of “acts of God” is dependent on the state where the contract was entered into or where the contract will be performed. Where a state defines an “act of God” to include wars, riots, floods, epidemics, and natural disasters, COVID-19 would likely be covered. However, where a state more narrowly defines “acts of God” as something caused by nature, COVID-19 may not be covered and the court will likely defer to what the parties contemplated with regard to risk allocation.

Other Force Majeure Considerations

A construction business seeking to invoke a force majeure clause must follow the contractual requirements for doing so. A party should pay particular attention to the form and substance of any required notice as well as time limits to provide such notice as required by the contract. Many states demand strict adherence and compliance with the notice requirements, and failure to adhere to even one aspect could render a claim or request for extension void or result in a waiver of entitlements to relief. Parties should keep in mind that a force majeure event that is continuing in nature, or otherwise evolving, such as COVID-19, the contract may require regular updates and reporting of extra costs in order to obtain relief.

COVID-19 will likely not be interpreted as an event that completely relieves a party from its contractual obligations. As such, the general principal of construction contracts that all parties to the contract must mitigate and minimize the impact of adverse events, will apply. Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the contract, the duty to mitigate could include incurring extra costs as the affected party or serve as a condition to relief.

Generally, a force majeure event will only temporarily excuse performance of those obligations impacted by the event, meaning both the affected party and unaffected party must continue to perform contractual obligation not impacted by the event. Upon the occurrence of a force majeure event, an affected party may, however, claim extension of time for performance based on the impact of the event or as long as the event prevents performance, provided that the contract permits such extension. In drastic situations, the contract may also permit termination of the contract should the event continue for a certain extended period of time. Such clauses may require that all or substantially all of a party’s obligations be affected for a specific period of time before termination is permitted. In these situations, parties generally agree to share the costs of the delay.

Planning for the Future

Contractors entering into construction contracts in the future should take necessary steps to minimize the likelihood of disputes, claims, and litigation resulting from the occurrence of force majeure events. When seeking to limit exposure, contractors must be specific and clear in their contract language when defining the scope and effect of a force majeure clause to protect themselves from unexpected liabilities. Moving forward, parties to a construction contract should address future concerns by drafting more precise force majeure definitions, develop flexibility in supply chains to reduce risk of disruption, maintain appropriate records of cost increases, and consider the inclusion of a well-drafted termination clause.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

The Right Protocols to Protect Your Roofing Teams from COVID-19

Surgical masks and other face coverings can prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale.

In the roofing industry, proper safety protocols are of paramount importance when it comes to protecting our most valuable assets: our people and our profits. And though many of us have long had training programs and procedures in place, it is crucial that we continue to adapt them in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Below are best practices that can help you mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and ensure the protection of your employees and customers. Though we have a team of safety coordinators at our company, you do not necessarily need a dedicated safety department to implement the prevention protocols outlined in this article. Additionally, some tools — such as online training courses — are available at no cost. Read on to find out how to best keep your roofing workers safe amid this ever-evolving situation.

Expand Safety Education

As mentioned above, various remote training programs have already been developed in response to the pandemic, with some of them provided free of charge. One such program is the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors and Contractors Course. Offered by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, this online course is designed to educate contractors and other construction industry professionals on the best practices and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 protection. We chose to enroll our 19 authorized Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Outreach Trainers on staff in the course, which they have all now completed.

Our OSHA Outreach Trainers play a pivotal role in our safety training, which has long been a priority for this company. They have completed the Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for Construction and other necessary requirements as mandated by the OSHA Training Institution (OTI) Education Centers. This certification enables them to teach both the 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA Construction Safety and Health training programs, which are offered to our frontline employees and supervisors to educate them about jobsite hazards and risk reduction. Since the roofing industry is constantly monitored by the federal government through OSHA, we work closely with Fed OSHA and, in California, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA) inspectors who are an integral part of our safety culture and are proud of the fact that we have earned recognitions of our safety records.

Neck gaiters are made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose.

To ensure that we are able to continue to provide OHSA training to our employees while following the social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we began offering the 10-hour and 30-hour training programs via Zoom video conferencing in June. This digital format eliminates any coronavirus transmission risk since attendees will not be gathered in the same space, while the live video aspect enables them to interact with their instructors in much the same way as an in-person course. Employees can access the training courses via phone, computer or tablet. Tailored to the requirements of the OSHA programs, the training includes a specific module on COVID-19 and infectious diseases.

We have also incorporated COVID-19 into our regular list of tailgate safety topics. We distributed our coronavirus tailgate pamphlet for two consecutive weeks in March and have sent it to our crews the first week of every month since. The pamphlets contain information on how to prevent coronavirus exposure, how to detect COVID-19, and the proper protocol to follow if you think you have been exposed to the virus or infected with it. One important point to remember when communicating with employees via written materials is that they may not all have the same level of reading comprehension, due to language barriers or other factors. To that end, our coronavirus tailgate pamphlets are available in both English and Spanish and feature explanatory images to accompany the text.

As for the tailgate talks, which usually involve a crew of four individuals or less, they now take place with the proper social distancing and face coverings worn. To further reinforce the coronavirus safety information shared in the tailgate talks, we also posted the tailgate pamphlet on an informational board in the break room, along with our company’s coronavirus preparedness plan and a COVID-19 infographic explaining how to break the chain of infection.

Safety training is required not only for our frontline workers, but also for our division and operations managers, and general superintendents. To that end, we have a team of 24 employees who serve as dedicated, full-time safety coordinators in place. They oversee safety-related operations and lead monthly training seminars. Our corporate policy is to provide whatever funding it takes to fulfill our motto that “at the end of the day we will send every employee home safe.”

Review Federal Recommendations and Local Regulations

As a national roofing and solar installer, we have looked to guidance from federal agencies when creating our own safety procedures specific to COVID-19, though it is crucial that all companies also monitor the locally mandated protocols in every region where they work.

The CDC offers comprehensive recommendations regarding proper hand hygiene as an important protocol designed to protect employees from COVID-19. According to the CDC, “with appropriate hand hygiene, you do not need gloves to protect you from COVID-19. When possible, wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.” The CDC further outlines the key times to clean hands, which include the following: before and after work shifts and breaks; after touching tools, equipment or other objects handled by coworkers; before putting on and after taking off work gloves; after putting on, touching or removing face coverings; before putting on or taking off safety glasses, goggles or other eye protection; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after using the restroom; before eating and before and after preparing food.

To make it easier for our employees to comply with hand hygiene requirements, we have distributed hand sanitizer to them. Additionally, we have asked the general contractors on each site to provide handwashing stations for them. We have also been mindful of how we now approach heat exhaustion prevention. Instead of getting water from a shared water source like a five-gallon jug, employees are now supplied with individual water bottles.

Social distancing is another recommendation of the CDC (and Fed OSHA) that should be practiced at all times to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, starting with when your crews leave for their worksites. At our company, we no longer allow employees to carpool together in a company truck. Instead, they are required to drive to the site in separate vehicles. Once at the site, crew members must remain a minimum distance of six feet apart from each other, as advised by the CDC. Social distancing measures are further implemented by having employees take breaks at staggered intervals to prevent groups from gathering in the same space. 

Coordinate Safety Measures on the Jobsite

It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to communicate with employees, builders, general contractors and all the other subcontractors on a project to ensure that coronavirus prevention is a coordinated effort. To that end, any information relevant to COVID-19 protocols and precautions should be shared with all parties.

Before we dispatch our teams to any site in Northern California’s Bay Area, for instance, we do a preliminary check to make sure all crewmembers are symptom-free. We then send the names of the cleared employees to the worksite, where a COVID-19 inspector is posted at the gate, courtesy of the general contractor. Every individual must undergo a temperature check before entering the site, which aligns with the CAL/OSHA guidance. According to the agency’s recommendations pertaining specifically to COVID-19 infection prevention in the construction industry, “employers may choose to prohibit employees with a high temperature (e.g., above 100.4 degrees F) from entering the worksite.” In addition to the temperature check conducted at the Bay Area sites, employees must also fill out a questionnaire asking if they have traveled, if they have been in contact with any confirmed COVID-19 patients and lastly, if they are exhibiting any symptoms. If it is discovered that an individual known to have COVID-19 has been on a work site, it will be communicated to the entire network — builders, general contractors, subcontractors — so that all are aware of the situation and can protect their teams accordingly.

Invest in Effective Face Coverings

One essential way of protecting your teams is to have them wear face coverings. By covering your face, you prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale, which can spread COVID-19 to others if you are infected — even if you are asymptomatic. Though face coverings are an effective tool when it comes to COVID-19 prevention, the subject has been a source of some confusion, as noted by the National Roofing Contractors Association. “When roofers are exposed to hazardous gases, vapors, fumes, dusts and mists, OSHA’s respiratory requirements are triggered,” according to the NRCA. “However, these scenarios aside, roofing workers fall into OSHA’s low to medium risk category of occupations for COVID-19 exposure — meaning required use of N-95 respirators is likely unwarranted. Shortages of N-95 respirators (and surgical masks) resulting from the pandemic have caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain—especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

However, surgical masks and similar face coverings are rendered ineffective by facial hair in most cases. Neck gaiters are an ideal solution for your crews, since unlike a mask, each one is made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose. The price per piece can range anywhere from $3 to $14, but the investment is well worth the protection it provides.

We have given two neck gaiters to each of our employees, so that there is always a spare to wear while the other one is being washed after each use. They are mandated to wear them at all times during the workday except when eating lunch. Made from polyester microfiber and manufactured by Hoo-rag, these neck gaiters wick away moisture and can be dipped in water for a cooling effect, thus offering additional protection against heat illness. Looking ahead, we are currently investigating options for a face covering that adds a third layer of protection as well: silica filtration.

Implement Stay-Home Policies to Limit the Spread

Even when all preventative measures are put in place, there is still a risk that asymptomatic patients may go undetected and unknowingly spread the virus to others at the worksite. One way to decrease that risk is to require that any employees who have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient stay home from work.

We are following CDC recommendations when it comes to protocol concerning confirmed exposure to the coronavirus, so any employee who may have been put at risk is not permitted to return to work for two weeks. “It is important to remember that anyone who has close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness,” according to the CDC.

And if any one of our employees starts to feel sick, whether there has been known COVID-19 exposure or not, that person is also required to call out from work. Our number one rule in response to the pandemic is to stay home if you feel ill. Regarding a safe return to the jobsite, the CDC recommends that “sick employees diagnosed with COVID-19 shouldn’t return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.”

As we in the roofing industry continue to navigate this challenging situation, it is vital that we stay vigilant. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States had climbed past 1.9 million as of press time, according to the CDC, with 37 jurisdictions reporting more than 10,000 cases. And total deaths from the disease had eclipsed 112,000. By closely monitoring conditions and modifying our safety measures as warranted, we can beat the statistics and keep our workers and customers safe.

About the author: Travis Post is the National Director of Safety at Petersen-Dean, Inc. Founded in 1984 by Jim Petersen, Petersen-Dean, Inc. is the largest, full-service, privately-held roofing and solar company in the United States. Specializing in new residential and commercial construction, the company works with some of the nation’s largest builders and developers. For more information, visit www.petersendean.com.

Creative Ways to Fill the Roofing Labor Gap

Ever since business rebounded following the 2008 housing bust, the roofing industry has experienced significant workforce shortages. These shortages have persisted even as the global landscape has shifted due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted almost every industry, including the home improvement sector. Millions of people are unemployed, largely due to the virus. However, many contractors and businesses have been deemed essential businesses.

With the growing need for essential workers, roofing contractors have an advantage finding skilled laborers during this challenging time. Here are a few creative ways to attract talent to your workforce.

Differentiate

It is evergreen advice that to attract top talent you need to offer a competitive edge or angle.

In marketing, that’s called strategic differentiation. Your differentiator could be offering a superior wage to attract workers. Consider some of these cost-effective methods and perks to have your company stand out as a place that skilled workers want to work.

· Training. Companies with a long-term view can differentiate themselves by offering informal or formal apprenticeship or mentoring programs. This helps a potential employee see that you’re willing to invest in their future. This strategy can be pulled off by having one or more knowledgeable and communicative senior employees step up to guide junior-level employees. Another avenue is to offer workers subsidies or rebates for continuing education at local community colleges.

· Flexible work hours. Potential workers can be attracted by offering the opportunity to shift off of a regular 9 to 5, five days per week schedule. Such flexibility can bring people into the labor force who otherwise can’t due to child care, elder care, or the need for a second job.

Diversify Your Labor Force

Another way around the tight market is to diversify the composition of your labor force. Women are increasingly filling historically male roles — why not in roofing? And, consider workers who have been displaced by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, such as those coming from retail, manufacturing, or agriculture. While they won’t arrive with the exact skill set you’d most hope for, these employees can come up to speed quickly to fill their gaps. Make sure your job postings make it clear you will consider people of all types, and especially those not traditionally in the roofing space. A diversified workforce can also bring your business new ideas that can help in unexpected ways.

Expand Your Radius

Consider recruiting further outside the city. Rural areas typically have fewer employment opportunities, thus there are more workers looking for jobs. You can also look to neighborhoods adjacent to industrial areas where workers have been displaced. This strategy depends on geo-targeting those potential employees as well as adjusting your employment offer to meet their needs.

Increase Referrals

Like many small businesses, roofing contractors often rely heavily on getting new employees through referrals from employees, family, and friends. Think about systematically increasing this referral stream. One of my favorite resources on this topic is from Tim Templeton’s book The Referral Of A Lifetime. At the risk of oversimplifying his approach, here’s a summary of the key takeaways:

· Be clear on why you’re a great employer. It’s crucial to have your own clarity on why you are a different and better employer. If you can crystalize that differentiation, and communicate it, you will attract interest from talented individuals from varying backgrounds.

· Ask. This is hard for many people, but it’s essential to let trusted contacts in your network know that you are looking for employees and to ask them to help you. If you don’t ask, they won’t know that they can help.

· Thank them. When your network contacts refer employees to you, an evergreen recommendation is to take the time to thank them for the help. It’s surprising how many people forget this. Your thank you might be a simple handwritten note or a heartfelt personal email. Even more effective is a shared beverage or treating them to lunch. Explicit thank-yous encourage repeat good behavior by your network. Even closer to home, when an employee refers a friend to come work for you, that’s the time for a good, hard cash bonus.

Get Digital

For new employee recruiting, specific resources like Construction Jobs provide online job forums for people specifically looking for your type of career. Also consider Craigslist, which has become the classified ads of our day. And, for the strategy of recruiting outside of the expected demographics, you might try recruiting sites like Indeed to set up your listings and profile to accept a broader range of applicants.

Automating ancillary tasks with digital tools can also help you adapt to the worker shortage. Services like JobNimbus make it easy to track your roofing projects, recruitment efforts, and most routine tasks. These tools keep tabs on your current workforce, plan, and track what they should be doing and are actually doing on an hourly and daily basis. It can keep all of your ongoing roofing work organized.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting new talent can be essential for sustaining your business. Use this time to recruit digitally and set up for success tomorrow— and well into the future.

About the author: Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Polka has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. For more information, visit www.modernize.com/pros.

Skylight Safety and Fall Protection

Options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights include guardrails and skylight covers. Photos: Malta Dynamics

The importance of fall protection for employees working at heights needs little introduction: falls remain one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities in general industry and construction. One fall hazard in particular can be especially dangerous to construction workers on roofing jobsites: skylights.

Skylights are a popular feature in modern architecture, which tends to emphasize natural light and an unobstructed view of the sky. Skylights are increasingly becoming a part of the rooftop designs of homes and commercial buildings of all kinds, particularly in high-end construction.

Because of their prevalence, skylight hazards for construction workers have earned special attention from regulators and advocacy groups. A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) alert from the Centers for Disease Control cites hundreds of lost-time injuries and dozens of fatalities caused by workers falling through skylights, existing roof openings, and existing floor openings. Most of these injuries occurred in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report highlights the dangers of skylight-related falls during snow removal, when the skylights may be covered with snow and their positions can become difficult to judge. The report also cited several cases of falls related to skylights that were unguarded or unsecured during construction or repairs on a roof.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed standards intended to safeguard workers—particularly in construction and general industry — who operate near skylights and roof and floor openings. OSHA 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(4) states: “Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.”

Thankfully there are many options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights. Let’s consider each of the types of solutions that OSHA recommends.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

A personal fall arrest system should include a full body harness; connectors such as a self-retracting lifeline (SRL), shock-absorbing lanyard, or vertical lifeline assembly; and an appropriate anchor point on the roof. There are permanent and temporary options when it comes to roof anchors. Which you choose will depend on whether you intend to install the anchor fixture permanently — if you own the building, for example — or simply need an anchor temporarily for a short-term job. Permanent anchors can be installed in wood, steel, and concrete surfaces, whereas reusable anchors can be installed with screws or nails and then removed with minimal damage to the roof.

Temporary fall protection options include towable free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers.

There are several good temporary options for fall protection anchors in rooftop applications that do not puncture the roof’s surface, including roof carts and mobile fall protection units. A roof cart can be pulled around the roof’s surface to provide anchorage to workers where it is needed; these typically use friction or puncture the roof in order to arrest a fall. Mobile fall protection units include road-towable, free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers up to 34 feet in the air without damaging the roof’s surface even in the event of a fall.

Covers

Covers must meet the criteria set out in OSHA Standard 1926.502(i)(2): “covers shall be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.” This means that a cover must be able to support the weight of all workers who may be using the cover, plus all their gear and tools, times two. Covers need to be clearly marked either by color coding or with a word such as “HOLE” or “COVER.” A cover also must be secured in such a way that wind, equipment, or the employees are not able to move it.

Guardrails

Guardrails are a great way to partition off areas where skylights present a fall risk, especially for rooftops where snow cover may obscure a worker’s view of the hazardous area. Guardrails are classified as hazard barriers, acting as a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard. Portable, free-standing, and non-penetrating safety rail systems can be used as flat-roof fall protection along skylights and roof perimeters. These systems are easy to install and allow work crews the versatility to work around the existing infrastructure.

In addition to preparing the jobsite with appropriate covers or guardrails and outfitting workers with the necessary personal fall arrest systems, there are several general steps employers can take to identify and mitigate the risk of falls through skylights or roof and floor openings:

  • Assign a Competent Person to inspect the worksite before work begins to identify fall hazards and provide recommendations on what fall prevention system(s) workers should use for the job.
  • Conduct periodic inspections to ensure workers are using their fall protection equipment consistently and correctly, and that fall prevention systems such as covers and guardrails are being properly used and maintained.
  • Train each worker who may be asked to work on a rooftop to enable them to recognize fall hazards and become familiar with the procedures and equipment needed to minimize their risks.

Having adequate personal fall arrest equipment, covers, and guardrails — or a combination of these — in place whenever a worker ascends to the roof to complete construction or maintenance work will go a long way in keeping your team safe. You can go further by training your team and making sure the equipment and processes that are provided are being used consistently and correctly. A little extra effort will help to save lives and prevent injuries.

About the author: David Ivey is the Product Engineering Manager for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering of all mobile fall protection and custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact divey@maltadynamics.com.

Interesting Times

“Stay safe.”

“Take care.”

“Hope you are healthy and safe.”

Work correspondence has taken on a different tone in the last couple of months as events have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s touching. People have been so kind in their responses. It puts me in mind of the gruff but friendly desk sergeant in the 1980s TV series “Hill Street Blues,” who would end every pre-shift meeting — no matter how chaotic — with this reminder: “Let’s be careful out there.”

When I emailed safety expert Richard Hawk to thank him for his column in our last issue, he responded, “There is a centuries old Asian saying that is both a blessing and a curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ It fits now, huh?” 

It does. The business landscape and most work environments are changing rapidly. In this issue you’ll see case studies and technical columns, as well as several articles geared specifically to coping with the coronavirus pandemic as the roofing industry continues to fulfill its indispensable role in maintaining our infrastructure.

This issue contains advice for employers coping with the fallout of COVID-19 from Benjamin Briggs and Elliot Haney at Cotney Construction Law. You’ll find tips from contractors like Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing and Steve Little of KPost Roofing & Waterproofing, who had to come up with creative solutions to meet new jobsite regulations and keep business flowing. You’ll also see the story of a roofing manufacturer that found a way to help meet critical shortages of medical personal protective equipment.

Duro-Last CEO Tom Saeli told me how a team of employees at Duro-Last came up with the idea to use the company’s materials and equipment to make medical gowns and masks for area hospitals. He also assured me his company was doing all it could to ensure employees manufactured the equipment safely — including maintaining social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the plant and equipment, providing masks and face shields, and taking everyone’s temperature.

At Roofing, we are committed to maintaining our role as “the industry’s voice” through our glossy print issue and digital edition, as well as our website and e-newsletter. Tom Saeli noted Duro-Last was sharing its story in the hopes that it would inspire others to help. If you have a story you’d like to share, please let us know.

And hey — let’s be careful out there.