Copper is non-toxic and presents no risks with long term contact. Consequently, the legislative controls and continuing programme of health monitoring needed for site workers and those handling other metals such as lead do not apply to copper workers.
The weight of copper needed to cover a given area is substantially less than that of lead, reducing lifting problems – particularly at high levels. Copper is therefore a safer alternative to lead for flashings and other weatherings – even on non-copper roofs.
Copper maintains a consistent malleability and ‘feel’ which makes manual working entirely predictable. Indeed, hard metal roofing installers show a clear preference towards copper over other metals. It can be worked at all temperatures and, unlike metals such as zinc, does not become brittle and break to form sharp edges in cold weather.
Copper is ideally suited to mechanisation techniques, including preforming of trays and joints in safe locations and the use of automatic seaming machines on roofs, minimising high level work (as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive).
An adult needs 100mg of copper, with 2-3mg consumed daily to replace what is lost by metabolic processes. A deficiency in copper is one factor in the increased risk of developing heart disease.