Two of the most critical safety items every roofer needs is a roofing harness and a body belt. Everybody that’s gonna be roofing for the rest of their lives should have a harness on or at least own a harness and be prepared to use it. True professional roofers will have both a roofing harness and a body belt, and they will know in what situations to use each one. When you show up on the jobsite you need to have your own harness and body belt sized and ready to go.
In 1998, OSHA stated, more or less, that body belts were no longer acceptable for use for fall arrest and everybody has been misinterpreting and misquoting that ever since, to where there’s just the majority of people think body belts are not legal and OSHA compliant on a roof and they certainly are. And it’s mentioned many, many times in different OSHA documents. Here are a few documents that mention how it’s OK to use body belts:
So, body belts cannot be used for fall ARREST. And that means that if you’re wearing a body belt, you can only wear a body belt if you understand the rules. And the rules are that if you have a body belt on, you must be hooked on to an anchor in such a way that you could never, ever fall off the roof or through a skylight hole. Now technically, you have to arrange your system so you can’t fall over 2 feet. But I don’t even want you to fall 2 feet! If you’re gonna wear a body belt, you have to adjust the length of your tether, the fix line from position of the anchor so that you can never reach the edge of the roof or you to have to wear a self-retracting lifeline. Now, if you wanna be extra safe, you could actually position the anchor for the self-retracting lifeline, the length of the lifeline, from the edge of the roof.
If you decide to use a body belt and a self-retracting lifeline you need to make sure your lifeline has no shock-absorbing lanyard.This is very important because if you fall off a roof wearing a body belt you’re gonna severely hurt your back. The shock absorbing lanyard will stop you 3, 4, 5, 10 feet down the roof and it’s gonna hurt you. And it’s the confident person’s job to ensure that all the employees who are wearing body belts either have fixed lifelines that won’t let them reach the edge of the roof or self-retracting lifelines without a shock-absorbing lanyard. And that will ensure that in most cases they can’t fall more than a foot or two off the roof.
Body belts come in several sizes and you wanna pick one that fits. Doesn’t do you a bit of good to wear a body belt if you can fall through it. You want your body belt to be snug enough around your waist so that if you swing upside down you won’t fall out. Body belts need to be inspected before every job. Make sure there’s no tears. Make sure the buckles are sound. Body belts should always be used for either positioning, which would imply staying in one spot, or for fall prevention, which means you could move freely around the roof. If you are wearing a body belt you need to make sure you can never reach the edge of the roof or an opening for a skylight.
An efficient roofing crew should use a combination of body belts and harnesses. Keeping in mind, you can also use a harness any place you could use a body belt. So, you can use a harness for positioning. It makes no sense to have six people on the roof, everybody trailing a 50-foot rope grab down the roof. So, on every job, there’s people who are at the top of the roof working on the ridge or dropping shingles down below. There are other people who are gonna spend a long time working on chimney flashing, soil-stack flashing, penetration, etc. The people that tend to work in one area would benefit from the use of fixed lines and positioning with either a belt or a harness. And they won’t have ropes trailing down. Or, in every case, they could use a self-retracting lifeline. So, once again, whether you’re using a body belt or a harness, the simplest way to be compliant is to have a self-retracting lifeline without a shock-absorbing lanyard.