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FRAGILE ROOFLIGHT FALL PROSECUTION

Young roof maintenance worker survives 10m rooflight fall

Two building contractors have been prosecuted and fined £9k following the fall of a 19 year-old workman through a fragile rooflight.

TQR Ltd of Dalkeith and sub-contractor, David O’Neil of Cleland, near Motherwell appeared before Edinburgh Sheriff Court following the fall into an occupied factory whilst carrying out refurbishment work on the roof of the building in April 2008.

The building owners had contracted TQR Ltd to carry out repairs to the roof of the building, including over-cladding the existing roof to address leaks. TQR Ltd subcontracted the work to David O’Neil, who supplied the labour for the job, working under the direction of TQR Ltd.

During the course of the project the injured person stepped onto an unprotected plastic fragile rooflight at the ridge of the roof. The rooflight gave way and he fell to the factory floor below, sustaining serious injuries.

HSE inspector Alastair Brown commented: “The measures which should have been taken to prevent this incident happening were straightforward and well documented. Both contractors involved failed to recognise the risks posed by the presence of fragile rooflights on this building, or to establish their fragility prior to work beginning.”

Comment: Surviving a fall of 10m through a fragile roof is remarkable. Falls through fibre cement roofs and fragile rooflights remain the most common cause of construction fall from height deaths. Such incidents led to around 10% of construction deaths over 50 years ago and still account for roughly the same proportion today. 

This is a hazard requiring much more attention by (a) building owners and occupiers regarding identification of the structures and controlling access onto the roofs and (b) by contractors concerning the precautions adopted and the involvement and supervision of those at risk.

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