Gravity never quits.
Fortunately, neither do safety innovators like Ronny Roseveare, co-founder of SLATOR, LLC.
The SLATOR™ (Secure Ladder and Tie-Off Responsibly) is a roof safety tool that both provides fall protection and securely anchors the ladder to the roof. GAF ProBlog spoke with Ronny, a 20-year roofer and remodeler, about factors that inspired invention of the SLATOR™, the decision to offer a range of harnesses and helmets, as well as the insights he’s learned as he’s pursued his personal passion, roofer safety.
GAF: First of all, how did you become personally invested in construction safety? Was there a specific turning point in your life?
RR: Seven years ago, my daughter started roofing with us. That was my turning point. As a business owner, it’s always been my job to make sure everyone is as safe as we can possibly make them. But for the most part, we are working with other responsible adults. I’ll tell you, your safety game gets really tuned up when your own children are involved.
GAF: That inspired development of the SLATOR™, then?
RR: Yes. That, and the fact we started doing slate roofing. You cannot walk on slate and the roofs are often very steep. Roofers find ourselves in a chicken and egg situation — we need to secure anchor points, but how can the first person up the roof do that safely? Ask a hundred different roofers and they’ll give you a hundred different solutions. But we needed the whole process to be safe, from the first person up to the last person down.
We soon realized that what worked for slate (The SLATOR™ – Ed.) would work for asphalt, too, as well as for dormer and siding guys and painters.
GAF: Most people understand what an unsecured fall can do, but many may be unaware that even a fall in a safety harness can be traumatic. Could you explain some of the complexities involved in falls?
RR: When you fall in a harness, what you really want to avoid is a sudden deceleration. That can be difficult on the neck, as well as the inside of the legs. The part of the harness that’s catching the falling load is between the legs and that can cause bruising. Our kit, for instance, comes with a load-limiting lanyard with a range of 130 – 310 pounds. It limits the upper load on the falling body to 900 pounds when decelerating. Without the load-limiting capability, a 310-pound person becomes a 5,000-pound load on the parts of the body that contact the harness.
The other hazard is suspension trauma. If I fall and my harness works properly, how do I restore my circulation when the straps that cross my inner thighs pinch my veins? My heart is still pumping, but the blood is having a lot of trouble returning to my core. My brain won’t get enough oxygen and I may faint. Sometimes a faint causes the head to fall to a position where you can choke. It cuts off your breathing tube. So, the real damage may not be the immediate fall itself; it’s the sequence of bad events that follow if you don’t get rescued and return circulation in time.
Even with the right safety equipment, you need to be rescued right away. Safety training needs to stress the importance of rescue within six minutes.
GAF: What changes do you see happening in the roofing industry to improve safety?
RR: The roofing industry needs to make some big changes, in the form of safety harnesses. Even when we are doing everything right, the dorsal ring is a problem waiting to happen.
Petzl, which makes rock climbing gear, also makes industrial pro-grade gear for phone tower climbers and other people who work at heights. They have an ANSI-certified sternal arrest point. If you find yourself suspended, you’re arrested from the front of your chest, in a more relaxed position. Even if you do become faint, the sternal action is much less likely to close off the windpipe.
GAF: In your experience, what is the most common cause of roofing accidents?
RR: The wrong attitude. Every accident is avoidable, but everything comes down to attitude. Machismo plays a big part in that. If you visit roofer forums, for instance, it won’t take you long to find someone dismissing the importance of fall protection. There’s a misperception — driven by peer pressure — that neglecting fall protection makes you tough. Here’s an example: I was showing the SLATOR™ product to a professional dedicated to reducing fall risk. The first thing he did when we stepped outside? Light up a cigarette. Neglecting roof safety is like smoking; we think bad things can only happen to the other guy. We don’t believe it can happen to us. Fortunately, effective training makes that correctable.
But that brings up another problem: lack of training enforcement by employers. Some employers have the attitude that training is something you do to check off a box.
In the ongoing battle against gravity, it’s good to know that experienced roofers are channeling their knowledge into life-saving innovations. For more about the SLATOR™ and other safety gear, visit www.SLATOR-USA.com.
The views expressed in this interview reflect those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of GAF. SLATOR Products are provided exclusively by Slator, LLC. GAF does not endorse, is not responsible for, and disclaims all liability in connection with any SLATOR products or claims made about SLATOR Products.
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Gravity never quits.