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Roofers and shinglers are in demand. In the U.S., the need is expected to grow by 13 per cent from 2014 to 2024 -- faster than the average for all occupations -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here in Canada, roofers and shinglers can expect steady work with a slight increase in demand, according to data compiled by Statistics Canada.

In any case, every building needs a roof but surprisingly the demand for roofers doesn’t just stem from roof replacements. It comes from high job turnover.

Low back pain

Researchers studying risk factors for leaving the trade found that workers who left the occupation within the first year, left because of chronic pain, work-related musculoskeletal disorders and poor health, according to research published in the American Journal of Industrial Hygiene.

For example, continuous work in a 'stooped position' can lead to low back muscle strain, ligament sprain, a bulging or herniated disc, or other back problems.

Modify work practices

Contractors can keep their roofing crews productive and on the job by modifying risk factors to prevent disability. Providing the right tools is an inexpensive way to start.

Some companies make tools specifically with ergonomics in mind. Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment.

Take Garant, for instance. Garant has been making tools since 1895 and while many know Garant as a leading Canadian manufacturer of snow removal and gardening tools, the company makes products for the roofing industry as well.

Garant's engineering team looked at the many roofing shovels available, examining them for their ergonomics. The team focused on tools that would allow roofers for the quick removal of shingles without the risk of back injury and muscular strains.

After examining the best characteristics of 10 shingle shovels on the market, they created prototypes and tested them in the field. They looked at design, pitch angles, durability, and control.

The result is the Garant Pro Series, a number of roofing shovels or spades that come in 12-, 7- and 5-inch sizes. Here's a snapshot of the features of the roofing spades:

  • tempered steel blades come in either 5", 7" or 12" long
  • patented one-piece head has no welds
  • tines and tilt are level so the spade slides, no catching on the return stroke
  • two pivot points allow for more prying force with minimum effort
  • lightweight poly "D" grip ash handle 
  • MSRPs ranging from $29.99 to $49.99

Contractors may be reluctant to try something new when their tools and methods have worked for the time they've been in business. Yes, there are those who swear by pitchforks and shovels. Some ask does it even matter what's being used as long as the job gets done.

Improve productivity

Valid points but from a business perspective, it makes sense to provide crews with the right tools. They can productivity and help reduce fatigue.

With the busy season ahead, contractors can help their roofers and shinglers reduce the aches and pains of difficult working conditions.

High job turnover doesn't have to be a reason the roofing industry is doing well.

For more information on the Garant Pro Series, visit the Garant website in English and French.

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