Every year nine people on average fall to their deaths from fragile roofs or through roof lights. Many more suffer serious, life-changing injuries.
Most of the time, these accidents occur on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings, workers often fall through the roof whilst repairing, maintaining or installing equipment, cleaning gutters and skylights, or surveying the roof and roofwork.
These falls can change, or even end, lives. However, they can be easily avoided by following simple tips. Read on and find out how to keep yourself safe when working at height.
A roof is considered fragile if it is not strong enough to support a person’s weight. This includes:
- Old roof lights (sometimes painted)
- Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets
- Asbestos cement sheets
- Corroded metal sheets
- Glass (including wired glass)
- Slates and tiles in poor condition
If you need to work on a roof, prevent falls using equipment such as our Roof Walk System with hand rail and safety lines.
Stop people and equipment falling from the edge of the roof with correct guardrails, midrails and toeboards, with brick guards if necessary. See our Roofline System which provides EN13374 Class C temporary edge protection)
Cover or barrier-off skylights to stop people falling through them.
Make sure ladders onto the roof are tied and secure. Consider using tower stair systems.
If you are working on plant or equipment on a fragile roof you still need safe access and a safe working platform with handrails.
If you don’t have all the equipment with you to prevent falling off or through the roof – don’t improvise.
What can happen if health and safety is ignored?
A 20-year-old worker was installing solar panels on the roof of a barn when he fell through a roof light. He fell six metres and his back was broken. Since then, he has suffered constant pain and has not been able to work since.
There were no measures in place to prevent his fall. The man’s employer, a solar panel installation company, was prosecuted and fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £27,000 costs. The technical director of the firm was also prosecuted and was fined £7,300 and ordered to pay £6,700 costs.
Keep in mind:
HSE now recovers the costs of time spent dealing with material breaches of health and safety law. This is known as Fee for Intervention (FFI). FFI generally applies when an inspector finds something wrong that they believe is serious enough for them to write to you about. A fee is charged for the time spent by the inspector in sorting it out.