Company fined for fragile roof fall

A construction company has been fined £20,000 plus costs after a worker fell through a fragile roof 3m on to a concrete floor below.

The worker had been sub-contracted by the company to carry out cleaning and repair work to multi-pitched asbestos cement roofs on a number of industrial units, many of which comprised vertical polycarbonate skylights along the internal gutters of the roof. During the work the sub-contractor fell 3m through the fragile material onto the concrete floor and suffered multiple injuries.

Commenting on the case the HSE Inspector said that as principal contractor, the construction company was responsible for making sure the work was planned and managed properly and that “they failed to identify and address the risks associated with the fragile sky lights.  Falls through fragile roofs account for almost a quarter of all work at height deaths, so it is absolutely vital that any such work is fully considered and that the correct equipment and working methods are used at all times.”

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 (1)(a) and 9 (2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Regulation 9 (2)(a) states that:

Where it is not reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without passing across or near, or working on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall – (a) ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar means of support or protection are provided and used so that any foreseeable loading is supported by such supports or borne by such protection.

Accidents such as these are easily preventable. When working on roofs, particularly fragile roofs, it's essential that a risk assessment is undertaken, the work is properly planned and that the correct equipment is used to protect those carrying out the work. We offer a range of products, such as the Board-Walk lightweight aluminium walkway, which have been designed specifically to allow work to be carried out on fragile roofs such as in this case.

See our Safe Roof Access article for further information on working safely on fragile roofs.