Building owners and occupiers urged to review management arrangements
Property owners and occupiers who have contracted or who are undertaking roof work are being urged to urgently review their safety arrangements after one worker died and another was left with life-threatening injuries in separate incidents just hours apart.
The first incident occurred in Rainham Essex on 16 November 2013 when a workman fell to his death through a fragile corrugated asbestos roof on an industrial unit whilst undertaking “routine maintenance”.
This death was preceded by a near-identical incident at a garage in Enfield, North London, just a few hours earlier where another worker plunged 7m through a rooflight as he carried out “minor repairs”. The workman remains in an induced coma with multiple injuries.
HSE state that the persons involved cannot be identified because of the “on-going enquiries, and no further information is available on the exact circumstances of what happened”.
Responsibilities cannot be delegated – onus is on landlords and occupiers
HSE believes both incidents were entirely preventable and hopes the incidents will serve as a stark reminder of the simple and well-established precautions that can be taken to ensure safe work at height.
Falls through fragile surfaces including fibre-cement roofs and rooflights, account for 22% of all fall from height fatal injuries in the construction industry.
Richard Boland, HSE’s Head of Operations for London said:
‘’I was saddened to hear of these seemingly preventable incidents involving work on fragile roof surfaces. Any business or worker commissioning or undertaking roofwork has legal responsibilities to ensure it is carried out safely.
Those responsibilities cannot be delegated to someone else, and I want landlords and building occupiers to know the onus is on them.
Whenever possible, work at roof level should be avoided. For example, it is possible to survey or inspect roofs using photographic methods, and gutters can be cleaned from ground level using long reach tools. If working on a roof cannot be avoided, precautions to prevent falls must be taken before anyone goes onto it, even for the most minor of works.”
Building owners and occupiers – actions required:
- control access to their roofs;
- provide signs warning of fragility at suitable access points;
- check the competence of anyone they employ to work on roofs; and
- check the contractors or workers take precautions to prevent someone falling through or off the roof.
Contractors and workers – actions required:
- treat any roof as a fragile surface unless they have sound information to prove otherwise;
- only take on work for which they are competent;
- only work on the roof if there is no other reasonable way of tackling the job;
- take suitable precautions to prevent falls through or off the roof; and
- train and supervise workers properly.
There is plenty of advice on the HSE web site about how to carry out roofwork safely.