Two roofing contractors at work

Roofing Fall Protection: How to Size Up Accident Liability

Sep 10 2021

When it comes to roofing repairs, replacements, modifications, or construction, risks are always present for the roofer. In fact, roofing is the 4th most dangerous job in North America. Because the job tasks of roofers are nearly always done from a high place, accidental falls are one of the biggest risks. Around 75% of all fatalities in this kind of occupation are related to a fall. 

But who is liable when a fatal or an injury-causing accident happens to a roofer? Could it be the homeowner, the building manager, or the roofing company? 

Answer: it depends on the details of the scenario. 

This guide tells you everything you need to know about rooftop hazards and who could be liable for them; this way you can avoid such unfortunate scenarios and liabilities as best as possible. If you run a roofing business, we will also tell you about how you can have roofing fall protection through insurance

Let’s begin!

A roofing contractor on the roof with a safety harness

A Primer On Rooftop Hazards 

Before we can talk about determining the liability of a roof fall accident, let’s discuss rooftop hazards for added context. As we mentioned earlier, the fact that roofing is always done from a height is already a hazard. However, there are other rooftop hazards that add to the risk of injury or even death, such as: 

  • Lack of awareness about the roof’s conditions
  • Instability of the roof
  • Instability of roof fixtures
  • Failing equipment
  • Improper use of safety equipment
  • Bad weather
  • Roof holes and skylights
  • Exposure to mould, building exhaust emissions, and so on. 
  • Exposure to undue external stress or pressure while performing tasks

When The Roofer Is At Fault 

People who have the training and experience for doing roofing work can still commit mistakes and miscalculations. Here are some examples: 

  • The roofer was warned about the unstable roof or fixtures but they miscalculated.
  • The roofer had effective safety equipment at their disposal but forgot to use them.
  • The roofer violated standard safety protocols or the protocols set by the company while performing a task.  

Oftentimes, when the roofer is at fault for a roof fall accident, it is likely that the liability will not fall on anyone else. 

Depending on the terms laid out by the insurance provider, worker’s compensation insurance, which we will talk more about in a later section, might help in these cases. However, it is likely that claims will only be approved for honest mistakes which could have been compounded by unfortunate circumstances. Deliberate self-harm or deliberate violation of protocols may be declined.   

When The Roofing Company Is Liable 

Roofing companies are, in some aspects, responsible for their employees. If these companies fail to step up to this responsibility, they may face charges and liabilities. 

Here are some scenarios of negligence that can make the roofing company liable for a roof fall accident: 

  • The roofing company hired someone whom they did not vet and actually had no roofing training or experience.
  • The roofing company did not ensure that all employees knew how to handle a new special type of tool or equipment, leading to an accident. 
  • The roofing company provided faulty tools or equipment, whether for safety or for other roofing-related tasks, causing an accident. 

Whether or not the roofing company receives worker’s compensation is based on the terms laid out and what happened in the accident. We will talk more about worker’s compensation, and how it can help, in a later section

When The Homeowner/Building Owner/Establishment Owner Is Liable 

In this narrative, the homeowner, building owner, or the establishment are all considered as the client of the roofing company. Though they are the client, they can still have liabilities, especially if they did not practice due care and proper conduct.  

Clients mainly do two tasks in relation to the roofer’s work:

  • Brief the roofing contractor on the state of their roof and what goals they have
  • Oversee what happens during a rooftop’s repair, modification, or construction (optional)

In relation to the above tasks, clients can be liable for a roof fall accident in scenarios such as: 

  • The client did not properly advise the roofer on the unstable portions of the roof or of the fixtures on the roof and this leads to an accident.
  • The client was putting pressure or demands on the roofer while the roofer was already working from a height, causing an accident.
  • The client demanded the roofer to make changes to standard roof repair/construction/modification practices which put the roofer in harm’s way.
  • The client let the roofer borrow a faulty tool and this led to the accident.

In the next section, we’ll talk about how clients (homeowners and establishments), can have roofing fall protection. 

A roofing contractor doing maintenance work on the roof

How To Get Roofing Fall Protection 

So far, we have discussed who is liable for various kinds of instances of roof fall accidents.

Whether you are a roofing business, an establishment that regularly gets roof repairs/maintenance, or a homeowner with a needed roof repair, you can get roofing fall protection in different ways.  

Full Information and Appropriate Conduct For Homeowners 

For homeowners, the best way to be protected from being liable for a roof fall accident is to inform roofing contractors fully about the state of their roof and to not distract the roofer/s while they’re at work. To help you understand further, read more helpful tips in our article, Who is Liable if a Roofer Falls Off My Roof? 

General Liability Insurance For Establishments 

Similar to homeowners, establishments are advised to give full information and to have proper conduct around roofing contractors when they are at work. 

In case of mistakes, however, comprehensive general liability insurance would be able to cover the legal costs and medical costs associated with third-party injuries within premises - and roofing contractors count as third-party individuals.   

Worker’s Compensation Insurance For Roofing Businesses  

With a top-notch broker like KASE Insurance, workers’ compensation can be bundled along with your complete roofing contractor’s insurance. Do this so that in the event that workers get an accident on the job, you will be covered for:

  • Medical fees
  • Disability fees
  • The workers’ lost income
  • Death benefits

In addition to the above, worker’s compensation provides employers with protection in the face of lawsuits related to employee accidents. 

Personalized Commercial Insurance That You Can Count On 

Whether you are in need of general liability insurance for your establishment or roofing contractors insurance bundled with worker’s compensation, we’re here for all of your insurance needs. We, at KASE Insurance, specialize in personalizing commercial insurance so that you get exemplary coverage, minus the costly riders. This is why we are trusted by hundreds of businesses. 

If you have questions about what we can do for you, reach out to us today! Our team of experts will be more than happy to help.

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