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Roof work – contractor seriously injured in fragile skylight fall
A London exhibition venue firm and a building contractor have been fined for safety failings after a specialist contractor fell through a fragile skylight.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how the exhibition venue firm allowed workers to cross an unsafe roof, which contained three fragile skylights and open edges, and failed to prevent contractors crossing the same unsafe roof on a number of occasions.
The court also heard that the building contractor, who had been appointed by the exhibition venue firm to undertake repair work at the site, had led a specialist lead contractor over the unsafe roof in May 2015. As he walked over the unsafe roof the lead contractor fell through a skylight, falling 5.5m. He suffered serious injuries including a shattered pelvis, broken wrist, and a broken elbow.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that the exhibition venue firm failed to ensure that access to and from the areas of the roof which required repair was suitable and safe, and that sufficient measures were in place to protect against the risks of falling from height.
The building contractor failed to ensure that the job of accessing and then inspecting the auditorium roof was properly planned.
The exhibition venue firm pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2925.56
The building contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £4,000 and also ordered to pay costs of £2925.56
What you need to do
The law says you must organise and plan all roof work so it is carried out safely.
- Assessing all work at height: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/assess.htm
All work on roofs is highly dangerous, even if a job only takes a few minutes. Proper precautions are needed to control the risk.
Those carrying out the work must be trained, competent and instructed in use of the precautions required. A ‘method statement’ is the common way to help manage work on roofs and communicate the precautions to those involved.
On business premises contractors should work closely with the client and agree arrangements for managing the work.
Key issues are:
- Safe access to roofs: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/roofwork.htm#saf
- Roof edges and openings: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/roofwork.htm#roo
- Fragile surfaces: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/roofwork.htm#fra
What you need to know
Everyone involved in managing or carrying out work on roofs should be aware of the following facts:
- High risk: almost one in five deaths in construction work involve roof work. Some are specialist roofers, but many are just repairing and cleaning roofs.
- Main causes: the main causes of death and injury are falling from roof edges or openings, through fragile roofs and through fragile rooflights.
- Equipment and people: many accidents could be avoided if the most suitable equipment was used and those doing the work were given adequate information, instruction, training and supervision.
Safe access to a roof requires careful planning, particularly where work progresses along the roof.
Typical methods to access roofs are:
- general access scaffolds;
- stair towers;
- fixed or mobile scaffold towers;
- mobile access equipment;
- ladders; and
- roof access hatches.
Roof edges and openings
Falls from roof edges occur on both commercial and domestic projects and on new build and refurbishment jobs. Many deaths occur each year involving smaller builders working on the roof of domestic dwellings
- Sloping roofs: sloping roofs require scaffolding to prevent people or materials falling from the edge. You must also fit edge protection to the eaves of any roof and on terraced properties to the rear as well as the front. Where work is of short duration (tasks measured in minutes), properly secured ladders to access the roof and proper roof ladders may be used.
- Flat roofs: falls from flat roof edges can be prevented by simple edge protection arrangements – a secure double guardrail and toeboard around the edge.
Always follow a safe system of work using a platform beneath the roof where possible. Work on or near fragile roof surfaces requires a combination of stagings, guard rails, fall restraint, fall arrest and safety nets slung beneath and close to the roof.
- Fragile roofs: all roofs should be treated as fragile until a competent person has confirmed they are not. Do not trust any sheeted roof, whatever the material, to bear a the weight of a person. This includes the roof ridge and purlins.
- Fragile rooflights are a particular hazard. Some are difficult to see in certain light conditions and others may be hidden by paint. You must provide protection in these areas, either by using barriers or covers that are secured and labelled with a warning.
See Fragile surfaces for more detailed information: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/fragile.htm
For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/roofwork.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be happy to help.
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence