I Work on a Roof – What Are My Rights?

Working on a roof can be dangerous. This is because a roof can be steep. Its surface can also be uneven or slippery. Extreme heat, ice, wind and other weather conditions can also make roofing work hazardous.

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Several sections of New York Labor Law can support a claim after a roofing accident, providing just compensation for past and future medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering.

Types of Roofing Accidents

Potential accidents that roofers face include:

  • Falls

    Injuries from falls range from fractures to severe spinal cord injury (SCI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Falls from roofs account for about one-third of fall-related construction fatalities, federal statistics show. Roofing fall accidents include falls through roof openings and skylights or through the roof's surface. Roofers also face the risk of falls from ladders.

  • Burns

    Roofers are subject to thermal burns from contact with tar or hot asphalt during their work, including explosions of asphalt kettles. Work in the sun over lengthy periods also exposes workers to sunburn, a type of radiation burn. One study found that about 1 in 10 roofing injury cases involves burns to multiple body parts.

  • Struck by Objects

    Tools, materials and debris can fall from a roof and injure workers below. Heavy materials or other objects that fall onto a person's head can cause TBI or death. Items stored or used on a roof can fall or roll over and crush or pin a worker. Power tools such as nail guns – if they lack safeguards – can eject objects that strike nearby workers.

  • Electrocution

    Roofing projects may be undertaken near live power lines, which can electrocute a worker on contact. If roofs are not cleared quickly as inclement weather approaches, roofers may be exposed to lightning strikes. In a multi-year study, 11 percent of the total deaths among roofers were due to electrocution.

  • Overexertion

    Roofing work requires repeated bending, stooping and kneeling as well as lifting heavy objects such as bundles of material or buckets of tar. This leads to strains and sprains – often due to cumulative wear and tear on the worker's body.

  • Heat exhaustion / heat stroke

    Roofers are exposed to the sun and heat absorbed by dark surfaces. Heat exhaustion is caused by exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, requiring emergency treatment.

Types of Roofing Accident Claims

Injuries suffered in roofing accidents typically lead to claims under Labor Law § 240(1), § 241(6) and/or § 200.

  • Labor Law § 240(1) and 240(2)

    You must show that your injury resulted from a risk caused by a "physically significant elevation differential," and that the construction site owner, contractor or their agent violated the statute by failing to provide you with proper safety devices to protect you from this risk, including railings, scaffolding, brackets, crawling boards, harnesses, belts and other safety devices. Clearly, an accident that occurs while doing roof construction would fall within the scope of this statute.

  • Labor Law § 241(6)

    You must show that your injury flowed from the failure of a construction site owner, contractor or agent to comply with one or more specific rules found in Rule 23 of the New York State Industrial Code. In a roofing accident case, numerous Industrial Code rules may apply, including:

    • § 23-1.10 – Hand tools
    • § 23-1.21 – Ladders and ladderways
    • § 23-1.15 – Safety railings
    • § 23-1.16 – Safety belts, harnesses, tail lines and lifelines
    • § 23-5 – Scaffolding
      • For example, a roofer may suffer severe injuries in a fall from a roof because he or she was provided with a faulty safety belt or harness. It could be shown that the accident resulted from a contractor's failure to comply with the § 23-1.16 requirement that every safety belt, harness, tail line and lifeline be inspected prior to use, and that any device showing signs of "excessive wear or any other damage or deterioration" that could materially affect its strength "be removed from the job site."
  • Labor Law § 200

    If the owner, contractor or agent had notice that a dangerous condition existed and controlled or supervised your roofing work, they may be liable under this statute. You could rely on a violation of OSHA regulations to support a claim, including OSHA's rules on fall protection.