Is a fear of falling and the British weather fuelling the roofing skills shortage?

A survey of over 200 trainee roofers by Redland has revealed that fear of injury or death is the biggest concern for 43% of them. Of the 212 surveyed, 63 said that they were most worried about falling from height, 12 cited health and safety issues, 11 said injuries and five said they feared death.

The budding roofers are all learning their trade at ten colleges and training groups with links to a pioneering Redland support programme, launched earlier this year to support young people and others as they train to be roofers. Through the programme, Redland provides direct training, online training and resources and materials for practical sessions.

Mat Woodyatt, Redland’s technical training manager, commented: “On one hand, I am pleased that these students are aware of the potential risks of roofing work because safety must be everybody’s responsibility. But these results are also a stark reminder that the industry needs to do more to ensure that we are working safely. How can we attract more young people to our industry if they are facing these fears?”

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the trainees are right to be concerned. In 2015/16, four of the 45 workers killed in construction were involved in roofing activities.

Redland says it has been working to counter unsafe working practices since it opened the National Training Centre in 1983. To date, Redland says it has trained over 45,000 people and is the only manufacturer approved to deliver the CITB-funded Basic Competency Programme (BCP) for pitched roofing, which entitles operatives to apply for a red ‘experienced worker’ CSCS card.

Woodyatt concluded: “Safety is an integral part of all the training we do, understanding what the risks are, discussing what the safest working practices are and learning where accidents have happened in the past.”

Findings from the survey also suggest that the industry needs to do more to reach would-be roofers during their time at school and college. By far the most common reason students gave for joining the industry was having friends or family in roofing (22%), followed by 14% who wanted to work outside, 12% who were attracted by money and 12% who wanted to have a trade. Just 2% said that they were attracted by a career in roofing through school or college and 2% came to roofing through apprenticeships or work experience.

Roofing is said to currently be one of the hardest hit trades in terms of skills shortages. A survey by the Federation of Master Builders in the last quarter of 2016 showed that 46% of small and medium-sized construction companies were experiencing difficulties in hiring roofers.

In a very British twist to the survey results, there was one thing that worried would-be roofers even more than safety issues: 65 students or 31% said they were most worried about the weather, and an additional 34 or 16% were worried about winter.