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    HSE SPELL OUT CLIENT DUTY ON FRAGILE ROOF RISK

    Clients must take action to avoid perennial cause of construction deaths

    HSE has published new guidance on the risk presented by fragile roofs. It is aimed at building owners and occupiers, construction businesses and workers.

    On average 7 people die each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light and many others suffer permanent disabling injury. Such falls account for almost a fifth of all fatal falls from height in the construction industry.

    The deaths primarily involve those working in the building maintenance sector carrying out small, short-term maintenance and cleaning jobs on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings.

    The following are likely to be fragile: old roof lights; old liner panels on built-up sheeted roofs; non-reinforced fibre cement sheets; corroded metal sheets; glass (including wired glass); rotted chipboard; and slates and tiles.

    Five key actions for building owners or occupiers

    HSE state that before work starts building owners and occupiers should ensure:

    • Assessment – roof is assessed by a competent person using a safe system of work;
    • Planning work is planned by a contractor with sufficient expertise on fragile roof working;
    • Specification – non-fragile assemblies are specified for new and replacement roofs;
    • Time – contractors have allowed sufficient time to carry out the work safely; and
    • Implementation – the planned safe system of work is implemented.

    HSE provide guidance on how to control the risk. Priority should be given to adopting a method that allows profiled roof sheets or roof lights to be replaced from underneath using a suitable work platform.

    Prevention can also be achieved by using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) that allows people to work from within the basket without standing on the roof itself.

    Where working from below or from a MEWP is not possible other preventive measures must be used e.g edge protection and stagings; safety nets underneath the roof and harness systems. Where harnesses are used there must be adequate anchorage points.

    All systems of work must be properly implemented through discipline, training and supervision.

    Expect HSE enforcement action on failure to control risk

    Working on fragile surfaces is described as “extremely dangerous and the precautions are well established”. The legal requirement is to organise and plan all roof work so it is carried out safely.

    HSE confirm that If inspectors encounter failure to control risk the work will be prohibited and prosecution may follow.

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