Three prosecuted for fragile roof light fatality

A company, its director, and a self-employed contractor have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a contracted worker died falling through a fragile roof light.

The victim was working with his friend cleaning roof lights on the roof of a building on an industrial estate when he fell about 7m through a roof light to the floor underneath, and subsequently died.  Neither the roof nor the roof lights could support the weight of a person.

The HSE investigation found that friend who had secured the work was a gardener and not a roofer, which meant he did not have the knowledge or competency to carry out the work.  As a result, he did not take any precautions to prevent a fall through the roof, nor off its edge.

The company responsible for the premises was prosecuted for failing to have adequate systems in place to ensure a competent roofer was appointed.  Both the company and its director failed to sufficiently plan and supervise the work as they did not understand the standards and the law relating to work on fragile roofs.

The company was fined £20,000 with costs for breaching Regulation 4(1) and Regulation 5 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, while its director was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment on each count (suspended for 12 months) and was ordered to pay costs of over £8,000.

The self-employed contractor friend pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment (suspended for 12 months) and was ordered to pay over £8,000 costs.

Following the hearing, the HSE inspector stated that: “This is an incredibly sad case all round. Each defendant knew that the roof was fragile and each accepted unsafe working practices.” He explained that the victim was only on the roof to help his best friend and that if the property management company and its director had asked questions about the friend's experience and knowledge of roof work standards, they would not have employed him.  The friend should also have realised that he was not competent and should not have carried out the work.

Think Roof Safety Think Board-Walk

Work at height is by its nature dangerous, add to that fragile roof lights, and the dangers are increased significantly.  It is estimated that falls through fragile roofs account for around a fifth of all fatal fall from height accidents in the construction industry. Most at risk as those carrying out short term maintenance and cleaning work, particularly on factory, warehouse and farm roofs which tend to feature roof lights and skylights.

Products such as our Board-Walk open mesh walkway have been designed specifically to allow maintenance of roof lights and skylights to be carried out safely.  Board-Walk is lightweight and easily portable, and spreads the load on support battens making it suitable for fragile roofs. The mesh walkway allows for full visibility and all-weather use and can include single or double handrails for enhanced safety.

If you're planning to carry out maintenance work on fragile roofs or roof lights, call us on Tel: 01767 691812 to discuss how to ensure the work can be carried out safely.