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Accumulations of snow and ice: how to avoid problems

The snow which accumulates on the edges of sloped roofs can represent a hazard for persons walking near the buildings, and may also eventually cause the sagging and collapsing of the roofs.

Avoid the building-up of snow and ice

By way of prevention and to ensure public safety, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) recommends to the owners the following:

  • Verify the accumulations of snow on your house(s) to prevent the collapsing of the roof(s).
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the persons who may circulate near the building.
  • Pay special attention to the snow loads on the arch roofs or radiused roofs, especially if these loads are not distributed evenly.
  • For the removal of snow, call upon companies having both experience and the appropriate equipment.

Operation snow removal: to do it yourself or call upon specialists?

If you do the snow removal on your roof yourself, it is recommended to use a special shovel for roofs fitted with a telescopic handle enabling you to remove the snow from the ground level.

Do consider that the removal of snow from a roof is an operation which is hazardous as much for the person who is up on the roof as for anyone who circulates around the house. Besides the risk of a fall, one needs also considering the proximity of any electrical wiring and installations.

Several reasons to call upon specialists:

  • They employ the appropriate techniques to remove the snow from the roof without damaging its waterproofing membrane; in fact, it is advisable to leave on a thin layer of snow as a natural protection for the membrane.
  • They are equipped to work safely, without injuring themselves or the others.
  • They can set up safety perimeters around the building.

Since one is not required to hold a licence from the RBQ to do roof snow removal work, it is important to make sure that the contractor or company has the necessary experience and equipment to do the job according to good practice.

A contract for snow removal work: a sound precaution for the safety of all

At the onset of winter, the well-advised owners will enter into a contract for roof snow removal as they would do for the clearing up of their parking space.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada This link leaves the Régie du bâtiment du Québec’s Website.This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window., the company which carries out snow removal work must have a commercial insurance coverage of an appropriate type (public liability).

During snow removal operations, it is important that every precaution is taken to avoid serious accidents. The employers and building owners and managers, as well as the workers themselves, have the responsibility to ensure that the job procedures followed comply with the safety rules.

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) This link leaves the Régie du bâtiment du Québec’s Website.This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. publishes on its website the measures of safety to be taken to remove snow from roofs.

If you are in doubt with regard to the strength of your roof

Generally speaking, our roofs are built to withstand the snow loads of the Quebec winters. However, you must exert close vigilance when the accumulations of snow become exceptional or atypical.

Call upon an engineer specialized in structural work to verify if your roof undergoes mechanical stress due to snow loads. This is especially important if your building underwent major modifications.

Signs to watch for:

  • Cracks appearing on interior walls.
  • Interior doors jamming or rubbing against frame.
  • Conspicuous creaking noises.
  • Deformation or buckling of a ceiling.

If such signs are numerous, you should evacuate the building and take the necessary actions to remove any snow load from the roof.

Stairs, doors, balconies and accesses

After a snow shower, clear up and de-ice thoroughly your stairs, doors and balconies, especially if these are used as emergency exits. It is also essential to clear out the evacuation routes to the street. This will prove a most valuable measure of precaution if you ever must leave your house hurriedly.

If you use gas-powered apparatus or appliances (electric household appliances, a fireplace, etc.), make sure you always keep the access to the storage tank free of snow and ice.

Temporary car shelters

Always keep your temporary car shelter free of snow build-ups to keep it from collapsing under the weight of the snow. However, do not clear the roof of your shelter while standing inside of it: if a collapse occurred, you would suddenly become buried under both snow and structure.

Emergency exits or egresses

Every exit door of the building as well as its evacuation routes to the street should be maintained clear of snow and safely usable.

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