Hand-held torches and torch-applied roofing systems create hazards in application for those who are working on the roof as well as the general public. The hot modified bitumen and the torch can both cause serious burns if one is not careful. The temperatures that these tools generate can also ignite fires. It requires a highly experienced roofer to be able to apply these techniques in the safest manner possible.
Firstly, safety precautions are a must when working with torch-applied roofing systems and throughout the application process. Personal protective equipment that needs to be worn by roofing contractors include hard hats, safety boots, eye protection and gloves. Be sure to check that no article of clothing being worn in synthetic or prone to flames. When initially getting up on the roof, an experienced roofing contractor will evaluate the surface for any combustible materials. If there are any, remove them as best as you can. Apply hot or cold membranes where required and seal off intakes or projections to prevent a fire from spreading in the event that something does spark.
Always invest the time to check the torch before using it. If it’s not in good working order, don’t use it. Any propane equipment that is leaking should be discarded and replaced immediately. If you notice a leak at any point during operations, cease work and address it. All equipment used should also be stored in protective casing to avoid tampering or any associated hazards. While you’re on the job and the torch is not in use, having the torch head pointing at an upward angle is safest. Never have the torch unit hanging over a roof edge or a curb. If you are not the torch operator, remain a minimum of two or three metres away from the flame.
Be attentive to anything that could be flammable when using the torch. Any cant strips, insulation, wood, grease, or lint exhaust are extremely hazardous. In addition, torching towards flashing, corners, voids, or behind metal counter-flashings is highly dangerous. Any time a torch is being operated near pipes, air vents, or HVAC units, special attention needs to be paid because you’re never sure where a flame may lead. Also, though it may seem obvious, torching near gas or electrical lines is never appropriate. If this is the case on your roofing project, find another way.
Though prevention is key to controlling heat and hot work hazards when roofing, it’s arguably just as important to ensure that workers are properly trained to react appropriately in the event that something goes wrong.
Any roofing contractor involved with torch-applied roofing systems should be trained thoroughly in how to install it, in addition to knowing how to handle, store, and use roofing propane. Following torching applications, a fire watch should take effect including the ceasing of any torching for a minimum of three hours before finishing work for the day. There needs to be a single person responsible to lead in the event of a fire and an escape route needs to be defined. At least one fully charged dry chemical fire extinguisher, per torch being used, should be handy as well.
Controlling hot work hazards is achievable by following these steps and simply by being attentive. Should an unexpected hazard present itself, having a plan in place to act can help save lives and prevent injury.