Dangers of Shoveling Snow Off Your Roof

02/03/2015

Dangers of Shoveling Snow Off Your Roof 
Healthy Living - February 3, 2015
Joan Pellegrini, MD 


Just like last year, this year is turning out to be another snowy one. You may look out at your roof and see all the snow on it and think your roof could not possibly survive all that weight on it. Unfortunately, we are also seeing another repeat from last year: people becoming seriously injured because they tried to get up on their roof and clear the snow. 

I am a surgeon and not a roofer or home builder. However, it should be said that most roofs in this area are built to withstand fairly large snow loads. the risk of a roof collapsing has to do with how much weight of snow has accumulated (ice and wet snow are heavier), how long the roof will need to support that extra weight (our roofs are meant to handle a large amount of weight for some time but not all year long), and what condition the roof and supports are in. After a large snow fall, some of the snow will slide off the roof, some will melt, and some will sublimate (when ice turns into vapor). The wind is a welcome friend in that it will blow much of the snow off the roof. Also, some roofs have a steeper pitch and will do better during the snowier times. Some roofs are in better condition or have been built more sturdily. If your house is old or you are concerned about the condition of your roof, it may be beneficial to have it looked at by a professional who can help guide you on this issue. 

There are professionals who can safely clear your roof. There are roof shovels which cost only $40-50 that can be used from the ground. There are black salt pucks that you can throw up on the roof to melt the snow (I understand there may be some corrosion issues with this solution). You may even have some friends or neighbors who have some safety equipment and could do this for you for not too much money. 

The problem with trying to do this yourself is the icy nature of winter. Think about it: you would be putting a ladder on an icy surface and then resting it on another icy surface and then climbing up in winter boots with poor traction on the ladder (while also trying to carry a shovel). This would probably not be much of a problem if you were in a deep pile of snow and climbing up to a short roof. However, this can become very serious if you are over a hard surface no matter how far up you go. 
It is particularly dangerous for some people to risk falling. If you have heart or lung disease you are more likely to overexert yourself which could cause you to become dizzy and lose your balance. If you are taking blooding thinning medication you are at much more risk for serious bleeding complications from an injury. If you are older you may more brittle bones which will break. Also, if you are older or have medical issues, you may have more complications healing from any injuries. 

In summary: please be safe and avoid getting up on your roof to clear snow.