The hidden dangers of agricultural and industrial buildings

By Soni Sheimar, general manager of Easi-Dec

A staggering number of falls from height continue to be linked with fragile roofs on agricultural and industrial buildings.

Employers are being faced with harsh fines and worse due to unsafe working conditions and not following the correct procedures to keep their employees safe. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the importance of this matter, and the solutions that are available when working at height.

Agricultural and industrial roofing is generally very fragile, with many weak spots and uneven surfaces which can result in an unsafe environment for workers undertaking rooftop tasks. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), falls are the second highest cause of death in agriculture, and the 2015/2016 national figures report a figure of 144 fatal injuries, with over a quarter of these injuries (37 cases) resulting from a fall from height.

The most important legislation is the Work at Height Regulations 2005, as amended by the Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007, which states: ‘no one must ever work on or from, or walk over, fragile roofs unless platforms, covers or similar are provided which will adequately support their weight.’

Breaching these regulations can result in prosecution as well as a substantial fine or possible imprisonment.

The problem

In December 2017, an engineering construction company found themselves in court after a worker suffered severe injuries falling from a barn roof. The worker was using two homemade crawling boards to repair a fragile barn roof when he fell six metres onto the floor below and sustained serious injuries to his head, hip and lungs.

The subsequent HSE investigation found that there were not enough platforms or coverings for the roof to protect workers from falling through the roof. The risk assessment and method statement which should have told the workers how to carry out the work safely was in the office and was not specific to the job. There were also no separate controls for the man basket, leaving the worker stranded when his colleague fell. The engineering construction company pleaded guilty to Sections 4(1) and 9 (2) of the Working at Height Regulations and was fined £267,000 with costs and a victim surcharge.

Falls from height can be easily prevented by taking simple steps, such as assessing risks, planning work, using the correct equipment and making sure everyone is trained on how to work safely.  The selected equipment needs to be designed to overcome the challenges of working on fragile roofs and meet required regulations.

The solution

Mesh walkways like the Easi-Dec Boardwalk and Valley Walk systems are a great option when access is needed to run from the eaves to ridge or along a valley. The Boardwalk provides the benefit of spreading the weight across the support battens, allowing the workers to confidently move along the full length of the system.

Always opt for a solution that is made from high grade aluminium ensures the structure is robust, lightweight, and easily transportable. This type of system will ensure that those who are working on rooftops comply fully with the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations.

If you would like to find out more about the systems that Easi-Dec offers to make working at height, especially with fragile agricultural and industrial buildings, easier and safer, get in touch.