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How to Safely Walk on a Roof Without Slipping

How to Safely Walk on a Roof Without Slipping
How to Safely Walk on a Roof Without Slipping
Image credit: Delanie Stafford, Air Force Medical Service

Walking around on a slanted roof can be dangerous, especially once you’ve removed the textured shingles and only have the sheathing to walk on. There are ways to walk on roofs, though, that will reduce your chance of slipping.

1. Wear proper footwear

Rubber-soled shoes are an essential part of walking safely on a roof. Though it is okay to wear your everyday tennis shoes or work boots if that’s all you have, there are better options.

If you’re wearing your everyday shoes, check that they have plenty of good tread on them. More tread contact with the surface under your feet will give you the best traction.

There are shoes that are made specifically for walking on roofs. Roofing shoes have an aggressive tread pattern that’s thinner than that on shoes you wear every day. The slimmer treads mean there are more of them to make contact with your surface. The more connection you have, the better traction you will have.

2. Secure the ladder

You’ll need to climb a ladder to get on your roof. Ladders can be dangerous if they aren’t used properly. When placing your ladder, always make sure that it’s on flat ground. You’ll also need to make sure that the feet are sitting securely square on the ground, so that it won’t move. Whenever possible, it’s always wise to have a person at the foot of the ladder to hold it while someone is on it.

secure the ladder
Image credit: Senior Airman Timothy Taylor, Joint Base Charleston

3. Wear a harness

A reasonable safety precaution whenever you’re on a roof is wearing a safety harness. If the roof is only ten to 12 feet off the ground, you may not feel that you need a harness, but we recommend it for any higher rooflines, and for any height of roof with a steep slope.

When wearing a safety harness, put it on per the manufacturer’s instructions and adjust it until it fits securely, but not tightly. Then attach the harness to a roof anchor with a rope. A roof anchor can be a piece of solid wood, such as a rater or a truss, or it can be a temporary ring that you nail into place. Most temporary roof anchors attach to the peak of the roof.

No matter what you use as an anchor, it shouldn’t be any closer to the edge of the roof than six feet. This should ensure that you have a solid surface under you at all times. You also don’t want to work more than four feet to either side of the anchor. When you get that far, carefully remove it and nail it to a different spot.

man wearing harness on roof
Image credit: Denniz Futalan, Pexels

4. Inspect and clear the roof

When you’re working on a roof, your focus is on the work more than on what’s happening around you. For this reason, it’s vital to inspect the roof before you start working, to remove any dangerous situations. Look for any dips in the surface that could indicate decaying or rotten wood. Mark those areas with a chalk line, so you know to avoid them until you have time to inspect them properly.

If you see any loose or curled-up shingles you can trip on, remove them. Clear away any tree branches or leaves that may cause you to lose your footing.

inspect and clear the roof
Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Flickr

5. Only work in good weather conditions

As a rule, you should only go up on your roof in good weather conditions. Walking on any wet surface can be slippery, but angled roofs are among the slickest. Of course, we know that there are times that you will have to go up on your roof in the winter to get rid of some snow, or in the rain to lay a tarp over a leaky area. Try to be aware of any leaks so you can prepare a tarp before it starts raining, or purchase a roof rake to remove your snow from the ground.

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