Time for Roofing Companies to Recognise Safety Value of Cold-Applied Systems

Roofing can be an incredibly precarious profession, writes Dean Grady, Product Manager at Sika. One in five deaths in construction work involves roof projects, whether in the course of carrying out specialist work or simple maintenance. A roof’s height and potential fragility creates an immediate risk factor, which is increased manifold by the use of naked flame processes applied during installation or maintenance.

To help reduce the perils associated with roof fires through naked flame applications used to dry-out or install torch-on membranes, the NFRC has launched a Safe2Torch campaign. Roof contractors across the UK are being asked to support the initiative which offers a host of best practice guidelines designed to minimise the threat of roof fire and reduce the risk to life and property.

Companies which pledge their support to the campaign will indicate they have read and understood the guidance and are committed to promoting and implementing the campaign throughout their organisation. This will provide clients with the assurance that their contractor/manufacturer has planned their roof works in accordance with safety advice outlined in the Safe2Torch campaign.


Safety points

Included within the Safe2Torch campaign is a section focusing on pre-hot works checks that should be carried out to eliminate potential hazards associated with the use of gas torches. These include:

  • Ensuring any combustible materials such as dry leaves, flammable liquids, wood, paper, etc, are removed from the working area
  • Assessing the roofing substrate, as under no circumstances should a torch be applied direct to a timber-based deck or upstand
  • Avoiding naked flame or high heat contact with foam or fibreboard combustible fillers found in expansion joints
  • Selecting a torch-free product for abutments with open cavities or open perpends
  • Avoiding using naked flames near fixed timber, plastic fascia or soffits

Although Sika specialises in roofing products that eliminate the use of a naked flame applications, we would urge companies throughout the industry to support the Safe2Torch campaign, as we feel the health and safety of employees within our sector should be the number one priority of manufacturers and contractors alike.

Ultimately, the way to mitigate issues with roofing naked flame works is to select a safer installation system. This will not only improve safety, it can help reduce installation time and on-site costs. Sika supplies a wide range of products which are rapid and simple to install for a wide range of flat roof applications.


Cold options

For example, the Sika-Trocal S-Vap 5000E SA is a new multi-layer, self-adhesive vapour control layer, which offers superb bonding strength for air-tight roof construction. Consisting of polymer-modified bitumen with a glass-fibre mat reinforcement and an aluminium foil as top layer, The self-adhesive feature eliminates the use of naked-flame installation, making for safe, simple and quick installation. It can also provide a temporary waterproof layer for up to four weeks without the aid of additional weight, ballast or mechanical fastening. 

Capable of withstanding heavy foot traffic without tearing, S-Vap 5000E SA is perfect for use on profiled metal decks.

Ideal for a range of substrates, it can be used in conjunction with Sika C-250 Spray insulation adhesive in an adhered roof build-up without the need for fasteners to secure thermal insulation boards. Sika C-250 Spray is applied via a pressurised canister that covers an approximate 140m², in minutes, a benefit that has helped speed-up the installation of Sika-Trocal single-ply roofing systems by up to 50%.

Primer 610, also from Sika-Trocal, has been specifically developed alongside S-Vap 5000E SA. also spray-applied via a pressurised canister that covers an approximate 180m2  to 200m2 roofing area, Primer 610 dries in minutes; a benefit that also helps speed-up the installation of Sika-Trocal single-ply roofing systems. Like the S-Vap 5000E SA, versatility is one of the Primer 610 system’s many strengths, enabling its use on many existing substrates.

The NFRC is to be applauded for its Safe2Torch initiative; any campaign which seeks to make the industry safer deserves our utmost attention and respect. Bituminous systems have been around for centuries, and because ‘torch-on’ is tried-and-tested with contractors reluctant to change their application method, it’s likely hot-working practices will continue for years to come.

There is an alternative, however, and with on-site safety quite rightly a major concern within the industry, perhaps it’s time roofing companies warmed to the idea of systems without hot works.

For more on the Safe2Torch campaign, contact: safe2torch@nfrc.co.uk.

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