“Ladder Assist” is the official job title at present yet this workforce of over twenty thousand now would be much better characterized as “Roofing Consultants” based on the expectations of the client companies they serve. That said, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that all Ladder Assist workers are worthy of the title of “Roofing Consultant” however, for all you seasoned Cat Adjusters out there, your skillset makes for a very nice fit provided you can handle high angle inspections and plenty of them.
Now before you go there, just stop….because I know what you are thinking:
Why would any self-respecting Cat Adjuster want to lower their professional standing to the likes of Ladder Assist?
Paperwork – on average about 1/10th that of a Claims Adjuster, consisting of an Eagle view diagram with appropriate scope of roof conditions and very little else. Fact is, most clients only request a simple verbal explanation of roofing conditions that correlates with the pictures they will download from a simple data card and that is all.
Pay – net pay ($100 - $200 per assist X 3-5 assists per day) approaches that of a Cat Adjuster on daily rate for those Consultants who reside near a major metropolitan area or are willing to work a Ladder Assist Specific cat assignment.
Pillow Placement – most Ladder Assist workers have no extra road type expenses. Out their own door around 7:00am, and back home by 3:00pm.
What would characterize the range of work duties a Consultant be responsible for?
The majority of Ladder Assist assignments require resolving access issues for insurance adjusters and forensic engineers with a very broad spectrum of comfort zones related to height and pitch. Many insurance carriers today have incorporated fall protection plans that restrict their adjusters to single story roof inspections of 6/12 pitch or less. I personally have completed numerous assists on single story 4/12 roof assignments where the adjuster simply wanted additional support to either make a tough call or counter voice an aggressive roofing sales representative. The application of tarps (aka “Blue Gold”) is yet another welcomed responsibility as it significantly increases the net pay for any assist. Some assignments are as simple as the act of leaning a two or three-story ladder against a structure so the client can do their own inspection while others can challenge the skill set of even the seasoned roof soldier.
Example a: Setting up and conducting an attended belay rope access system for a forensic engineer to access an aggressively pitched roof structure.
Example b: Obtaining rafter, valley, drip edge and ridge cap measurements on a super cut up 150 SQ 24/12.
Saving the best for last, and by far the most important responsibility is the ability to consult and that requires the education and experience needed to:
· provide accurate product identification. Do you know the difference between a Hanson and a Ludowici tile roof…. an EPDM a PVC and a TPO flat roof…. Acrylic, Elasomeric and Polyurea roof coatings….an Alcoa and a Berridge metal shingle…can you core a built-up roof system and identify its layered components… can you repair your core hole to prevent roofing system from leaking?
· understand proper installation as recommended by product manufacturer. Improper installation techniques are a common phenomenon that can fool the untrained eye into believing that Wind is the proximate cause of damage when in fact it is not.
· diagnosing the source of roofing leaks and providing viable advice on appropriate process for repair, replacement or alteration. Do you know what might cause a flashed valley to leak?
· deliver storm damage documentation that will justify claim decisions. Appropriately sequenced photos allow a client the capacity to accept them without the need for a consultant to label or describe.
What tools will I need?
Let’s keep in mind that all the knowledge in the world will be of little use without tangible resources. As with any profession, there is a correct tool for every job and showing up unprepared to a Ladder Assist could lead to dissatisfied clients, significant injury or much much worse. Remember folks that as a Ladder Assistant, you are the backup plan for gathering data off of all of those architectural masterpieces that nobody else wants to or is capable of climbing. Unless you possess undisclosed super powers, you need to understand that gravity does not favor the unprepared, the height phobic or the nutritionally enhanced. Good Roof Access workers are without question genetically predisposed for this industry with inherent traits that are void amongst 95% of the general population. That said, here is a short list of tools you may want to consider:
· 16ft, 32ft & 40ft Extension Ladders - of appropriate rating for the weight loads they will be subject to (please do not overlook the odd 300lb roofer who apparently needs no permission to use what is yours). It’s critical that you have all three because you will need all three throughout the course of every week. Don’t waste your time with a 24’ or a 28’ for use as a midsize ladder, they are not tall enough to access much of what you would select a midsize ladder for and trust me when I say “you do not want to use your 40’ unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary”!
· Cougar Paws – without question a must and currently required by most roof consulting employers. Leaving home without my paws would be nothing short of suicide.
· “Ladder Max” Stand-off Stabilizer – an extremely valuable tool in my access kit arsenal that most people tend to overlook. The transition from roof to ladder and ladder to roof is the most likely spot for an accident to occur. The Ladder Max increases a ladders resistance to kick-out and lateral slippage to TEN TIMES that of an un-modified ladder and keeps our ladder from crushing the gutter system. Think of ladder use as you would a game of Russian roulette in the sense that eventually you will find the right situation for your ladder to fail. Play this game with an unmodified ladder and you are playing with a single bullet in a six cylinder gun, but play with a “Ladder Max” assisted ladder and you play with a single bullet in a six million cylinder gun.
· “Safe T Ladder Rails” – walk through ladder extension rails that increase your ladder’s reach capability by three feet and keep climber’s center of gravity between the side rails where it belongs. Also immensely useful when either a valley or hip ridge represents a roofing systems best access point in which case you would apply just the left rail or the right rail, whichever is most appropriate for an open angle of access.
· Rope Access Kit – that includes at very least a 200ft primary rope, a 50ft pivot line, a leather ridge cap protector and a “Tag Line” rope delivery system. An ascender, descender, body harness, webbing, slings, carabiners, helmet, line launcher, weight based anchors, and prusik cord are all useful but not absolutely necessary for 95% of true rope access inspections.
· Leather “Rope Access” style gloves (from Petzl, Bluewater, Sterling or PMI/Pidgeon Mountain Industries). My Petzl “Cordex” gloves are attached via aluminum carabiner to my tool belt at the ready to use mainly as a heat shield for my hands while descending down toward my ladder on a 150 degree shingled surface.
· Portable Roof Anchor – looks a little bit like a toe board attachment point that can be used to lift a shingle tab where it is then secured via four aggressive wood screws that provide a 400lbs minimum tensile connection point (on ½” plywood decking) to attach a pivot line to. When used correctly, this tool is very effective and when removed does not compromise the roof’s water shed integrity. 400 lbs may not sound like a lot of resistance yet consider the fact that just ten pounds of assistance from my pivot line while wearing a pair of Cougar Paws allows this fat boy the stability he needs to negotiate a 14/12 pitch. Please note that this style of anchor requires a holstered impact driver attached to your tool belt.
· Oh Yes, and let’s not forget our pitch gauge, Haag shingle gauge, “Fat Max” tape measurer, camera, clip board, compass and chalk.
Do Ladder Assist / Consulting Companies have entry level positions for those wanting to break into the industry?
In fact they do but let me warn you that they maintain very much of a “Sink or Swim” philosophy where-by you may ride along with an experienced field rep (if your lucky) for a few days and then if you meet all of their legal criteria:
a) Obtain your own LLC ($300 - $800 one-time expense)
b) Obtain a Two-Million Dollar Liability Policy ($50 monthly expense)
c) Obtain Workman’s Comp ($50 monthly)
you will be provided a tablet, some shirts with company logos and regular work assignments. If for whatever reason you end up being a bad fit for the job (i.e. cant or wont climb the roofing systems, are late for appointments, fight with the customers, fail to play nicely with other Consultants on your team, have any conflict of interest issues, incapable of delivering company standards of service) you will literally wash out in a matter of a few weeks.
My advice to those with little experience who are looking for an entry level position would be to:
* Get Haag Residential Roofing certification and if possible Commercial Roofing certification.
* Get Rope Access Certified from an accredited Rope Access Training program that acknowledged SPRAT and/or IRATA worldwide rope access standards. Avoid “Rope & Harness” training schools that base their programs on the Sport Climbing industry. ACRABAT approved training providers (the Association for Rope Access Building Assessment Technicians) are currently the ONLY professional organizations that provide pitched roof rope access training that conforms to SPRAT “Safe Practice for Rope Access Work”, OSHA 1926 & ANSI Z359.8.
* Take some Adjuster 101 type training courses so you can better understand how to take care of the clients you will primarily serve.
* AND whatever you do….Don’t show up for work with a 32ft ladder strapped down to a couch cushion on the cab of your truck!!!