Falls from height are the largest cause of death and serious accident in construction and roof accidents account for around 25% of these. On average 9 people are killed every year from falling through fragile roofs or fragile roof lights. Many others suffer serious permanent injuries.
One of the issues faced by the construction industry is that the majority of people working on roofs are not trained roofers.
Many people access a roof for other reasons, such as maintenance, checking air conditioning units, cleaning guttering and carrying out surveys, so it’s really important to ensure that anyone accessing a roof is fully trained and competent.
If you contract others to access or maintain rooftop equipment or carry out any form or work at height, then you’re legally required to make sure proper safety precautions are in place. Failing to do this can lead to legal prosecution and either a substantial fine or even imprisonment.
The HSE regularly publishes press releases about incidents resulting in prosecutions, where poorly planned work could or have led to falls through fragile roofs and roof lights.
A logistics company has been fined £80,000 after failing to provide fall protection for workers replacing the roof of its Blackburn premises in May 2019. Blackpool Magistrates heard how HSE inspectors visited the warehouse and observed two workers on the roof without any physical protection or any work equipment in place to prevent or minimise the distance of a fall. Further investigation revealed that the roof of the warehouse was fragile and people were at risk of falling through the structure. The defendant did not have measures in place to prevent workers falling from or through the roof from which they could suffer personal injury or even death.
A fragile surface could include roof lights, non-reinforced fibre cement sheets, corroded metal sheets, glass (including wired glass), slates and tiles. The safest way to approach a roof is to assume it is fragile, until a competent person has proved otherwise.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 should always be used when working at height to plan the work. It lays out a hierarchy of the different measures that can be taken, and where work must be undertaken at height, it specifies the use of safety equipment. This includes the use of safety nets, roof safety harnesses and suitable roof safety systems.
Effective precautions are required for all work on or near fragile surfaces, no matter how short the duration. The booklet HS(G)33 “Health and Safety in Roof Work” also gives extensive guidance on how to work safely on roofs. It covers new buildings, repair, maintenance, cleaning work and demolition.
It’s essential that you plan all work at height properly and make sure that it is carried out by competent members of staff or contractors to minimise potential accidents. Selecting the correct equipment is also key to reducing the risk of accidents and falls from height.
Here at Oxford Safety, our team can provide you with the correct system to safely access your rooftop. Our range of fragile roof access equipment has been designed to provide short term protection for those working on fragile or industrial roofs.