The two old ladies sat in the bank lobby, patiently waiting their turn to conduct business. They were completely unaware of the roof safety hazard unfolding directly above them. The peril was so great, it could scar them physically and emotionally for the rest of their days… if they survived at all.
To fully appreciate the danger they were in, you need to understand the nature of hot asphalt. If you’ve ever been scalded with boiling water, you know what pain is. Now try to imagine something two or three times as hot.
When it gets on your skin, you feel as if you’ve touched a red-hot burner on the stove. It burns deep, destroying skin tissue as it goes. The nasty open wounds take many months to heal and leave gruesome scars.
In the industry, it is very clear why hot asphalt is known simply as “hot”.
Roofers who use “hot” take many roof safety precautions, yet small accidents are fairly common. It might come from a splash at the kettle or perhaps a spill at the mop cart.
There have also been some truly horrific cases, where roofers have actually fallen off the roof into an open kettle. In each case I’ve heard of, they died instantly.
I think you get the idea. This is some truly nasty stuff. And I haven’t even mentioned the toxic fumes and fire hazard. Insurance companies hate it. My deductible jumps from $1000 to $50,000 for accidents involving hot asphalt. For these reasons, many small roofers like myself have turned to alternative roofing systems that don’t use hot asphalt at all.
However, for larger commercial work, a good built-up roof with multiple layers of fiberglass roofing felt, hot asphalt and a modified cap sheet is still tough to beat. It goes down fast, lasts a long time and performs well in any climate. It was the roof system of choice being installed on the bank that day…
Roof decks have various openings for such things as roof drains, vents, and plumbing pipes and they all have to be well sealed. That’s what the roofer was trying to do with a generous helping of hot asphalt to the roof opening which happened to be… directly over the women. I’m sure he was unaware of them just as they were of him.
The hot asphalt poured through the opening in the roof deck. It quickly seeped through the suspended ceiling and… landed on the carpeting directly between the shocked women. It missed them by inches. I shudder to think of what would have happened had it landed on their thin gray hair.
The ladies were extremely lucky to be safe and sound. The roofer was extremely lucky this accident only cost him a ceiling tile… and new carpeting for the bank lobby.
My point in telling you this true story is that roofing hazards can affect all of us. Roof safety is everybody’s business. It just makes sense to be aware of the perils and avoid them.