Roof Snow Removal Safety

As a result of the large amount of snow that has fallen in New Brunswick, more individuals are being treated in emergency departments for injuries related to shoveling snow off of rooftops. In the months of January and February in the greater Moncton area, 15 rooftop snow removal injuries including a broken back, ankles, feet, and injuries to the knee were reported.

“Snow removal from a roof in winter conditions is a dangerous task,” said Dr. Gary Duguay, chief of emergency medicine, at the Moncton Hospital, part of Horizon Health Network. “Individuals need to use extreme caution and be mindful of their safety when engaging in this type of high-risk activity as it can result in very serious injury.”

“To prevent this type of injury the New Brunswick Trauma Program encourages people to apply best judgment and common sense when removing snow from a roof,” says Shelley Woodford, NB Trauma Program Coordinator at the Moncton Hospital. “When snow must be removed I strongly recommend that people hire a professional company trained to remove snow from a roof.” She says a roof rake is also another alternative, as it allows a person to stand on the ground and rake the snow from a slanted roof safely.

If the slope of the roof is slightly steep or angled, it is recommended not to walk on it. If the roof is flat and safe to walk on Woodford recommends people use the following guidelines:

Apply the buddy system:
Ensure there is another responsible person available on the ground while the second person is on the roof. Do not attempt to scale the roof when wind is a factor.

Dress appropriately:
Wear, thick-soled insulated footwear with gripping soles, and warm garments that keep you dry and provide a wide range of motion. Gloves and a hat are a necessity.

Use a safety rope:
A safety rope similar to what many people use for rock climbing should be used. Attach the rope into a safety harness or safety belt which can be purchased at any outdoor-living retailer. Fix the other end to something very heavy or permanent.

Use a light-weight shovel with a telescoping handle to shovel snow gently off of the roof.

The New Brunswick Trauma Program provides provincial leadership and coordination of injury prevention, clinical care, education and research related to serious and critical injuries in New Brunswick. The NB Trauma Program is a formalized partnership that includes Horizon Health Network, Vitalité Health Network, Ambulance New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Department of Health.