Fatal scaffolder fall highlights fragile roof risk

The case of a fatal fall through a fragile industrial roof has highlighted the risks posed by these hidden dangers across Britain’s roofs.

In September 2015, a scaffolder was fitting a temporary guardrail system as part of a larger refurbishment project at a foundry in Staffordshire, when he fell 11.5 metres through the corrugated asbestos roof to his death.

Two contractors were fined and one received a suspended prison sentence after an HSE investigation found they had failed to properly meet their health and safety responsibilities.

The scaffolding company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of the employees carrying out the work, and the owner was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, as well as 180 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay costs of £14,000.

The roofing company was found to have failed in their duty to protect employees from the risks posed by work on the fragile roof. The company was fined £41,125 and ordered to pay costs of £33,000.

Many people are surprised to hear that more falls occur through the roof than over the edge. The fact that this incident occurred during the installation of guardrail to improve the safety of those accessing the roof is particularly unfortunate.

HSE Inspector Andrew Bowker said: “Falls through fragile roof materials remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities during construction work.

“These risks are well known, and the required control measures well documented in both HSE and industry guidance. This was a tragic and wholly avoidable accident that led to the death of a young man. This death could easily have been prevented if suitable safe systems of work had been in place.”

What is a fragile roof?

Fragile roofs can range from:

●     Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets

●     Asbestos cement sheets

●     Corroded metal sheets

●     Slates and tiles in poor condition

●     Skylights and rooflights

If there is a risk that a roof is fragile, as many roofs are, employees should be fully aware of the danger before commencing work, in the form of a proper risk assessment. If possible, they should avoid accessing the roof at all and carry out the work either from the ground or from specialised access equipment.

When height work is unavoidable, the correct equipment and safety measures should be provided to workers, such as safe access equipment in the form of roof walkways, either temporary or permanent.

Our Board-Walk system spreads the weight of the user from eaves to ridge, allowing work such as resealing and repair to be carried out on even fragile roofs without putting the worker at risk. Each section can be linked to provide an uninterrupted walkway, and will work either horizontally or vertically.

Using the correct equipment is a vital part of ensuring work at height is carried out safely, and is especially important when there is a fragile roof risk.

For more information about safe access on fragile roofs, or any of our fragile roof products, call us on 01767 691812 or use our online contact form.

Related posts:

Prison sentence for unsafe roofwork

The dangers of industrial roofs and how to avoid them