1.8m fine for roof light fall

We recently wrote about the dangers of working on fragile roofs in the food & drink manufacturing sector, and unfortunately, the latest case of a company prosecuted following a fall through a fragile roof light is yet another example of the dangers of working on these types of roofs.

A Stoke food manufacturer has been fined £1.8m after two workers suffered serious injuries when they fell over 4m through a roof light.

The Magistrates’ Court heard that the two workers were investigating a leak from the roof at the firm’s site in Malton but did not realise that the roof contained several roof lights.  Both stood on the same roof light which gave way under their weight.  One worker suffered four fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and muscular contusions to his outer right thigh, while the other suffered a fractured skull, muscular injuries to his right leg and injuries inside his ear which cause ongoing problems with his balance, memory and mental health.

The HSE investigation into the incident found that the roof was made of asbestos cement and had several roof lights situated along.  These were not visible as over they had become obscured by the build-up of moss and dirt.  Employees at the site had also not been made aware of the roof lights.

The company pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £1,866,000 and ordered to pay £8,019 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Mark Slater commented: “This was a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height.   Consideration of roof fragility and rooflights, visible or not, should be made, especially on older buildings.”

Fragile Roof Falls

As we mentioned in our Blog Three Cheers to Roof Safety, falls from height account for 20% of fatal accidents and serious injury in the food and drink sector with, fragile roofs, including roof lights being of concern.

Weather and UV damage can affect the layers of protection for roof lights and skylights over time, causing them to become brittle and unsafe and no longer “man safe.”  As is the case here, they can also become discoloured or covered in moss and dirt over time with results in them blending in with the roof.  Unless there is a record of roof lights being present on a roof, and where, people accessing the roof could be oblivious of the hazards.

There is a range of fragile roof access equipment available which is specifically designed to provide safe platforms for use on fragile materials and industrial roofs that prevent these types of accidents from happening.  It is essential that all operatives are properly trained and that such systems should be used in conjunction with a written risk assessment and safe working method.

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