Have your property’s gutters been cleaned by landscapers? If so, can I ask you why you chose to hire them over a professional roofer?
Was it because of a low price? Or because of the convenience?
I’ll tell you what isn’t convenient: being sued, paying medical bills, court dates, lawyer fees, and settlement fees.
So, let me ask you, knowing that hiring a landscaper to do a roofer’s work can lead to all this—WHY RISK IT?!
Let me break this down. You, whether you are a portfolio manager, a property manager, or a maintenance supervisor, are in charge of making sure the people who work on your properties are certified, insured, and safe.
In most cases, your maintenance staff isn’t allowed on the roof of your apartment building, in fact he/she isn’t allowed to fix anything above 6 feet off the ground (OSHA’s trigger height), because it is unsafe (unless you are properly trained in safety techniques/protection), and you do not have the correct insurance to protect them if they were to injure themselves on the roof. Landscapers are NO DIFFERENT than your maintenance workers. They are not insured to clean gutters, or pressure wash your roof. So, if you allow them on your roofs without proof of the correct insurance, you are participating in what is known as negligence. You are violating or neglecting, what is legally referred to as “Duty of Care.”
Duty of care, by definition, “refers to the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another”. [i] Furthermore, if you hire someone, you (your owner or whoever you represent) is accepting responsibility for the wellbeing of your hired workers, in this case— landscapers. If those landscapers climb up on your roof, clean out your gutters, and injure themselves in the process, or worse- fatally fall from your roof, YOU are responsible for their injuries/death. And since you NEGLECTED to attain their roofing insurance, you are at fault for breaching your duty of care. Your employer will be at fault for this.
Figure 1. Graph from 2018 Press Release by The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If the legal liability of this doesn’t worry you, let’s talk facts.
According to a study produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics[ii], as of 2017, roofers have the 5th highest work-related death rate among construction workers. Statistically, roofers die at a rate of 45.2 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers (see figure 1). So what does this information tell us? It tells us that even the safest and most trained professionals have accidents; however, because they were insured roofers (let’s hope), the people who hired them are not at fault for their deaths. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for uninsured, untrained landscapers doing a roofer’s work.
Figure 2. Chart by The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To show you how common slips, trips, and falls are in the workplace, we return to the same 2017 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics[iii]. 33% of construction workers’ deaths occurred because of slips, trips, and falls; 82% of roofers’ deaths were from the same; as were 32% of the deaths by Maintenance/ Repair professionals. These statistics prove how common slips, trips, and falls are in any job, and that those “accidents” can be fatal.
Figure 3. Index of OSHA’s Landscaping Contractor’s Guide.
By hiring landscapers to do a roofer’s work, you are putting their workers, your owner, and yourself at risk.
I understand it might seem cheaper to hire a landscaper to clean the gutters or the roof, but it’s only cheaper because you’re not paying for expertise, or for the insurance it takes to cover a roofer.
In conclusion, if someone isn’t an insured roofer, DO NOT hire them to do a roofer’s work. OSHA provides a guide for Landscaping Contractors; furthermore, it lists the topics that landscapers would need to have information on. In other words, this is a comprehensive list of the areas of expertise for Landscapers and Tree Services professionals[iv], and there isn’t any information on cleaning gutters, or roof maintenance; therefore, one can infer that OSHA doesn’t consider this work to be under a landscaper’s job scope. Neither should you.
[i] Understanding Negligence in a Personal Injury Case. David Goguen- J.d. – https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/personal-injury/understanding-negligence.html
[ii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2018, December 18). NATIONAL CENSUS OF FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES IN 2017[Press release]. Retrieved July 31, 2019, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf
[iii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2018, December 18). 2017 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Charts[Press release]. Retrieved July 31, 2019, from https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0016.pdf
[iv] O. (17, July). Oregon OSHA’s guide for Landscaping Contractors and Tree and Shrub Services[PDF]. Pg. 3. Oregon OSHA.