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January 5, 2001

ASSE Warns Against Shoveling Snow from Roofs

Des Plaines, IL (SafetyAlerts) - To address the safety risks of clearing the excessive snow and ice off of roofs American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Samuel Gualardo recommends leaving that job for trained professionals because of the life threatening hazard involved from slipping off of a roof or ladder.

"We strongly discourage anyone without the proper and necessary fall protection equipment to clear snow off of roofs. The average home or business owner does not have the proper equipment or training," said Gualardo.

"However, if a person is absolutely bent on doing something about ice accumulation," Keith Vidal, ASSE Standards Development Committee Chair, said, "appropriate measures must be taken, such as never stepping onto a sloped roof, or in some cases an icy flat roof, unless the person uses the appropriate fall protection equipment, which includes a harness and lanyard."

An ongoing snow-related concern is ice dams, which are formed when gutters are filled with ice, thus blocking melting snow and ice from traveling through the gutters.

  • When using a ladder .. make sure it is set at the correct angle with the bottom feet of the ladder approximately one fourth of the distance from the foot of the ladder straight up to wear it is supported by a wall or roof edge. The bottom of the ladder must be secured in position to avoid slipping away from the wall or building and the top of the ladder must be tied off so that the ladder cannot fall away, fall sideways or slip away from its support.
  • When climbing onto a roof using a ladder ..  make sure that the ladder extends approximately three feet over the supporting edge, not more or less.

It is extremely important to note that even when a second person stabilizes the ladder at the bottom ALL of the above safety measures should be used. Of additional concern is that none of the above measures consider the actual load strength of the roof, which must also be considered on all structures. Only a qualified engineer should make this decision, as the structural load capacity of many roofs is being approached with the amounts of ice and snow that are on them.

Vidal also strongly recommended against spreading ice-melting chemicals on a roof because it can cause damage to the roof and drainage system and is ineffective as a measure to reduce the amount of snow and ice on a roof.

"The bottom line is: people are taking a serious risk when undertaking roof clearing activities under wet, slippery and cold conditions," Vidal said.

"A fall from a roof can change a persons life forever." Founded in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional occupational safety and health organization. Its 32,000 members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health and environmental issues in industry, insurance, government and education. For more information on ASSE and this issue visit its website

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