The Top 5 Issues in Metal Roof Installation

Metal roofs offer a number of benefits for both homeowners and roofing contractors. Installation problems, however, can cause functional or aesthetic issues that can result in problems, delays and unhappy clients. Following are the five most common roof installation issues and how to solve them.

1. Metal Shavings Causing Rust Streaks

Installing a metal roof requires drilling through the aluminum or steel roof panels to attach them to the substrate. The process creates metal shavings, especially at rivet holes along the ridge cap or when drilling through multiple layers of roof panels.

These metal panels show evidence of rust stains caused by metal shavings. Photos: Gulf Coast Supply & Manufacturing

Those tiny shards of metal can cause rust and stains on the roof, as well as corrosion that shortens the lifespan of the roof. The more layers of metal a crew has to drill through, the more shavings will be produced.

“Shavings are no problem when removed quickly,” says Paul Hope, field service technician for Gulf Coast Supply. “It is when they are left behind that they become an issue.”

“When metal shavings sit on the roof for a week to a month they start to corrode,” Hope says. “That corrosion leads to staining of your panels, and that staining leads to unhappy homeowners.”

Roofers should get in the habit of either sweeping or blowing metal shavings off of the roof at the end of the workday, according to Hope.

2. Improperly Installed Underlayment

Underlayment has to be carefully measured and lapped to avoid moisture infiltration into the building envelope. Local building codes specify lap coverage guidelines and slip sheet placement for underlayment installation.

Underlayment must be carefully measured and installed correctly to prevent moisture infiltration. The underlayment shown here is not lapped correctly.

Underlayment is designed to act as a secondary water barrier in case rain makes it past the metal roof. Some of the most common causes of water intrusion are fastener failure, wind-driven rain in extreme storms, or metal-to-metal connections with no sealant.

Avoiding underlayment issues is easy to do if the crew follows installation instructions and code requirements. If underlayment is not installed correctly, however, replacement costs can be expensive and involve removing the metal roof, replacing the roof substrate and installing new underlayment.

3. Over-Tightened and Under-Tightened Fasteners

Proper fastener installation is critical to the efficiency of a roof system. Because fasteners penetrate the metal roof, underlayment and roof deck, they can allow for water infiltration into an otherwise waterproofed roof.

Over-tightened screws compress the washer too much and can cause water to pool. Under-tightened screws will not hold panels securely and can cause premature wear of fasteners and panels.

During the installation, screws must be straight and tight to perform as intended. Fasteners that are not installed straight do not form a proper seal. And even when they are straight, over-tightening the screw compresses the washer too much, forms “dimples” in the metal panel and causes water pooling that can then infiltrate the attic.

Under-tightened screws won’t hold the roof panel securely and can cause premature wear of both the fastener and panel.

4. Inadequate Onsite Storage Arrangements

Roofing materials should be delivered in a particular sequence, close to the time roofers will need them. The longer roofing materials, such as panels, are stored on site, the more prone they will be to damage from the elements or construction-site mishaps.

Improper storage of roofing panels at the jobsite can lead to damaged and corrosion.

Workers should pay attention to where and how materials are stored. Are they out of the way of vehicles? Are they on a flat surface? Are they elevated on one end to allow for drainage of rainwater?

Standing water, especially on unpainted panels, can cause wet storage stains or what is known as “white rust.” Sand, dirt and debris can also damage metal panels, causing permanent stains before they are ever installed on a roof.

5. Delays Due to Worker Injury

Safety is crucial on any jobsite but especially when installing a metal roof. Injury and accident prevention should be the primary duty of crew chiefs and workers alike. Accidents can not only send workers to the hospital, they can affect scheduling and job productivity as well.

“Medical bills, downtime, and loss of skilled laborers for extended periods of recovery can take place,” Hope says. “It is the responsibility of every individual to properly protect themselves from day to day.”

Proper safety equipment is essential. Gloves and Kevlar sleeves can help roofers protect themselves from cuts.

Falls are the most common potential metal roofing injury. Workers should use harnesses when on the roof and in any other fall-risk situations. Someone on the crew also needs to maintain the condition of the safety equipment. “Nicks in the harness can jeopardize your entire fall system,” Hope says.

Cuts caused by the sharp edges of the metal panels are also a hazard. Gloves and Kevlar cut sleeves can help roofers protect themselves.

Less common threats include electrocution and burns. Electricity, whether from a live current or lightning, can travel through the metal. Rubber shoes and gloves can protect roofers from potentially fatal shocks. Burns are less common, but in hot climates, the sun can heat metal enough to cause an injury. Workers can protect themselves with gloves and protective clothing.

Taking care to address these five common metal roofing installation issues can result in a smoother, more effective process, fewer problems and more satisfied clients.

About the author: Jared Pearce is the technical services manager at Gulf Coast Supply & Manufacturing. The son of a general contractor, Pearce has been around the construction industry his whole life. He is also a native Floridian and a Coast Guard veteran. Gulf Coast Supply has been a trusted choice for metal roof products throughout the Southeast for more than two decades. Through its Contractor’s Advantage program, Gulf Coast offers both classroom and hands-on seminars to help fill the industry’s need for qualified roofers. For more information, visit www.GulfCoastSupply.com.

OSHA’s Focus Four

I’m a safety professional. It’s what I do. When I drive around my neighborhood, I observe the practices of roofers who are working. Rarely—if ever—do I see them using proper fall protection. It is upsetting to me because hundreds of roofers fall to their deaths in the U.S. every year, and fall-related standards are consistently in OSHA’s most cited standards.

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Focus Four are the four most common causes of death and serious injury in the construction industry. OSHA’s title, Focus Four, is basically a warning in and of itself: These are the four hazards to which OSHA officials pay the most attention. It is not surprising, then, that the Focus Four are always among OSHA’s most cited standards.

The Focus Four Are:

  • Falls
  • Struck by object
  • Electrocutions
  • Caught in/between

The Focus Four with statistics from construction in 2013 are:

  • 1) Falls: 302 out of 828 total construction deaths (36.5 percent)
  • 2) Struck by object: 84 deaths (10.1 percent)
  • 3) Electrocutions: 71 deaths (8.6 percent)
  • 4) Caught in/between: 21 deaths (2.5 percent)

Now do you see why these hazards are titled the Focus Four?

Falls from height are the primary cause of fatalities in the roofing industry. Between 2012-14, there were more than 1,300 roofer fatalities from falls. Year after year, falls are No. 1 on OSHA’s Focus Four. In addition, fall-related topics are heavily represented in the top 10 most-cited OSHA standards (see list below).

Struck-by incidents, while not as common as falls, can also cause death and serious injuries in the roofing trade. Employees throwing scrap material off a roof without a chute or in a controlled landing area combined with employees not wearing proper personal-protective equipment can lead to serious struck-by incidents.

Electricity also poses a safety risk for roofers. It can kill in three ways: falls, burns and electrocution. Working too closely to electrical lines, using aluminum ladders and working with metallic conductive gutters, as well as using conductive roofing and flashing materials, can lead to death from electrocution. In addition, a lack of ground-fault protections while using damaged, non-construction-rated electrical cords with missing ground plugs can lead to fatalities.

Caught-in/crushed-by incidents are less prevalent in the roofing industry. However, there have been occasions where employees are caught in ladders and killed. It happens.

The Focus Four are, of course, not the only hazards. Particularly in hot weather, heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all prevalent in the roofing industry.

Construction inspections account for 60 percent of OSHA’s total inspections. In 2009, preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, suggest there were 816 fatal on-the-job injuries involving construction workers—more than in any other single industry sector and nearly one out of every five work-related deaths in the U.S. In the same year, private-industry construction workers had a fatal occupational injury rate nearly three times that of all workers in the U.S.: 9.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent construction workers versus 3.3 per 100,000 for all workers. (Learn more from the Construction Focus Four: Outreach Training Packet.) Therefore, it seems to me it’s a good idea to follow OSHA’s fall-protection standards—as well as its other standards. It just might save lives.

THE 10 MOST FREQUENTLY CITED OSHA STANDARDS IN 2014

  • Fall Protection, Construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  • Hazard Communication Standard, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  • Scaffolding, General Requirements, Construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  • Respiratory Protection, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  • Powered Industrial Trucks, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  • Control of Hazardous Energy(lockout/tagout), General Industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  • Ladders, Construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  • Electrical, Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.212)
  • Electrical Systems Design, General Requirements, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.303)

Thirteen Metal Building Systems Manufacturers Receive MBMA Safety Awards

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) annually recognizes metal building systems manufacturers that show exceptional commitment to ensuring workplace safety. The Annual MBMA Safety Awards were presented at the MBMA Spring Meeting held in Kansas City, Mo.

“A total of 46 plant facilities participated in MBMA’s Quarterly OSHA Injury Statistics Program,” states Dan Walker, P.E. assistant general manager of MBMA. “Awards were presented for a plant’s performance throughout 2014, based on our analysis of the submitted data, which is directly compared to the OSHA industry average.”

MBMA and its members are committed to the safety of everyone who works in the metal building systems industry. The organization has had a long-standing Safety Committee and Safety Awards Program, which was revamped in 2013 to increase the stringency of the awards so that companies with truly outstanding safety performance are recognized for their achievements. “Our members are focused on the safety of their employees, and MBMA is very pleased to recognize their commitment through these awards,” says Walker.

From the 46 manufacturing facilities nationwide that submitted data, 13 awards were presented. MBMA’s award criteria stipulates that winning plants must have work-related accident and illness rates that are at least 50 percent below OSHA-reported averages for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code 332311 (Prefabricated metal building and component manufacturing). For the Safety Performance Award, the industry average incident rate, as reported by OSHA, was 5.0 for NAICS Code 332311. Therefore, MBMA’s award cut off was just 2.5 or fewer incidents.

The Superior Safety Award, under the rules of the MBMA Program, was awarded to those plants that achieved zero recordable cases for the 12-month period, which is a very significant achievement.

Awards were presented at the following levels to individual plant locations:

2014 Superior Safety Award – In recognition of having zero recordable incidents.

  • AMERICAN BUILDINGS CO.
    Carson City, Nev.

  • BLUESCOPE BUILDINGS NORTH AMERICA INC.
    Laurinburg, N.C.

  • NUCOR BUILDING SYSTEMS
    Swansea, S.C.

  • RUFFIN BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Oak Grove, La.

2014 Safety Performance Award – In recognition of having achieved an incident rate equal to 50 percent or better than the industry average as reported by OSHA.

  • AMERICAN BUILDINGS CO.
    Eufaula, Ala.

  • BLUESCOPE BUILDINGS NORTH AMERICA INC.
    Jackson, Tenn.

  • CBC STEEL BUILDINGS
    Lathrop, Calif.

  • GULF STATES MANUFACTURERS
    Starkville, Miss.

  • KIRBY BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Portland, Tenn.

  • NUCOR BUILDING SYSTEMS
    Terrell, Texas

  • NCI BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Houston

  • NCI BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Caryville, Tenn.

  • SBC BUILDING SYSTEMS LLC
    Ambridge, Penn.

The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

Asking an employee why he or she wants to be safe is like asking them why they work. Overwhelmingly, every roofer I ask this question to tells me he or she wants to go home at the end of the day. He doesn’t want to lose any time because losing time is losing money. And, believe it or not, money can buy happiness. A New York City carpenter once told me he fell 35 feet and broke multiple bones. He was out of work for two years, during which he collected $57,000 from workers’ compensation insurance. If he worked, he would have made more than $100,000 per year. In his words, “I almost lost my big house on Long Island and my high-maintenance wife.”

In addition to how accidents impact workers’ finances, they can seriously affect a company’s bottom line. A good Health and Safety Program can save a company money by cutting workers’ compensation insurance premiums; heading off needless, expensive and embarrassing OSHA citations; avoiding expensive and embarrassing lawsuits; increasing the efficiency of the workforce; and boosting workers’ morale, which consequently will improve their productivity. A good Health and Safety Program also will give a business owner peace of mind by knowing all his or her employees are working safely.

In my experience, project managers, job-site superintendents and crew foremen are the people who are reluctant to want job-site safety. They believe following safety standards slows the job down. Management is responsible for making money in a business that regularly grapples with close bids, tight schedules and limited job budgets. However, these factors do not take into account the “hidden” costs of workplace accidents. Oftentimes, accidents are more expensive than people realize because of these hidden costs.

Examples of Hidden Costs

Some costs created by accidents are obvious; for example, workers’ compensation claims cover medical costs and indemnity payments for an injured or ill worker. What people often don’t think about are the hidden costs, like the costs to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property, investigate the accident and implement corrective action, as well as maintain insurance coverage. Even less apparent are the costs related to schedule delays, added administrative time, lower morale, increased absenteeism and poorer customer relations.

Washington, D.C.-based OSHA’s Safety Pays Program states the lower the direct costs of an accident, the higher the ratio of indirect to direct costs. The more accidents that occur in a workplace, the higher the costs in increased insurance premiums and greater indirect costs. According to the Boca Raton, Fla.-based National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., these include the following kinds of indirect costs:

  • Any wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ compensation.
  • The wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage associated with the worker injury.
  • The overtime costs necessitated by the injury.
  • Administrative time spent by supervisors, safety personnel and clerical workers after an injury.
  • Training costs for a replacement worker.
  • Lost productivity related to work rescheduling, new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees.
  • Clean-up, repair, and replacement costs of damaged material, machinery and property.

Some of the possible indirect costs not included in these estimates are:

  • The costs of OSHA fines and any associated legal action.
  • Third-party liability and legal costs.
  • Worker pain and suffering.
  • Loss of good will from bad publicity.

The Human Factor

Direct and indirect costs certainly are motivation for preventing workplace accidents. In fact, when I ask roofing company owners why they want their employees to work safely, many automatically default to the money answer. However, in most cases, business owners are generous, caring members of their communities. I once sat across the desk of an owner of a large construction company after his team experienced a fatality. He asked me, “How do I look at myself in the mirror every morning, knowing one on MY guys didn’t go home today?” Even though he did not know this employee personally, he considered this worker one of his guys. Ultimately, it’s the human factor that is the most important reason to ensure safe working conditions on job sites.

My favorite phrase is “To protect my employer, I protect his employees.” I think they’re words to live by.