Dean Grady, Product Manager for Single Ply Membrane, discusses how roofing companies should start recognising the safety value of cold-applied systems.


Roofing can be an incredibly precarious profession. 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.

Dean Grady, Sika Roofing Product Manager for Single Ply Membrane 

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 theroofing substrate, as under no circumstances should a torch be applied directto 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 applied options

There are safer alternatives to products applied with naked flames such as self-adhesive vapour control layers and waterproofing membranes and cold applied adhesives. It is to these type of products that the industry should be looking to and developing. Consigning torched products to history may well have a positive impact on insurance premiums.


The cold applied products can be more, user friendly for the installers. Furthermore, cold applied products suit any size project and moreover can mean increased productivity and subsequently less time on site.


Sustainability is also an issue as clients want cleaner and more sustainable products. Using more modern technology provides for a more positive and up to date image for the industry and everybody within it. Health and safety, the demands of insurance companies and clients for safer work all points towards cold applied roofing.  


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: