Service Technician Permanently Injured On Slippery Vinyl Roof

Victoria Negron

Written by
— Updated on March 21, 2018

 This case involves a roofing construction project for a county courthouse. The roof was redone with a vinyl-type membrane, a surface that is very slippery when wet. The vinyl manufacturer who sold the vinyl membrane to the contractor also had a slip-resistant treadway available for purchase. This product could be placed on top of the roof to provide a steady walking surface at various locations and pathways. The contractor brought this material product line to the attention of the county, but the county elected not to install it. It appears the two entities never discussed the uses of the roof to ascertain whether a walkaway was needed or recommended. A few months after the installation of the new roof, a service technician who was on the roof for a different project slipped on a puddle of water and fell sustaining leg and head injuries. The service technician suffered permanent damages and is unable to work. An expert in premises liability, particularly roofing and construction, was sought to comment on the liability of the county in this case.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Briefly describe your experience with the hands-on construction and roofing of large projects.
  • 2. What factors are considered when deciding whether to install a slip-resistant walkway?
  • 3. Can you address the use of vinyl in construction and how that relates to slip-resistance?

Expert Witness Response E-105701

I routinely work commercial insurance claims. I’ve examined slate, metal, TPO, EPDM, cedar shake, and asphalt shingle roofing systems. The types of structures include county courthouses, public schools, hotels, government office buildings, ice-skating rinks, agricultural buildings, and others. When deciding whether to install a slip-resistant walkway, rooftop equipment is a fundamental consideration. If the rooftop equipment needs regular service, then walkways are a requirement not only to protect the service technicians but also the roof surface. Many punctures in the roof occur around rooftop equipment. Some technicians are gentle, but most technicians don’t know that placing the edge of a sheet-metal cover on the roof can create a rupture in the roof membrane. I am comfortable with vinyl construction. Membranes typically become slippery when wetted. Wetting over prolonged periods creates moss or fungus growth, which becomes very slippery.

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