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Written by
on 23 July 2014


Health and Safety in Roof Work

construction plans and safety hard hat They look so solid, they seem so safe. But a little too much pressure in the wrong place and it’s a sudden drop back to ground with a thump.

When your worker falls, the company who sent them up falls with them. Legally speaking.

In the last two months a construction firm, a scaffolding firm and a farm, plus many more companies, took heavy fines from workers falling through or from fragile roofs.

Fall Statistics through the Roof

We already know 59% of worker fatalities last year were from falls, well when you fall through a roof, it’s a long drop and rarely a minor injury.

And 15% of all slip, trip and fall deaths are from roofers alone, as this post of shocking construction statistics illustrates.

If you’re a construction company, make sure your workers are safe, and if you’re designing a building make sure roof-top maintenance workers have nothing to fear either!

To do this the solutions are quite simple. The first step; identify the common risk areas.

The 7 Main Roof Risk Areas

  1. Glass, or roof windows, including wired glass
  2. Old roof lights
  3. Fibre cement sheets which are not reinforced
  4. Corroded metal roof sheets
  5. Slates and tiles
  6. Old liner panels on built-up sheeted roofs
  7. Rotted chipboard

Next, Avoid Rooftop Work if Possible!

The very safest you can be is with no workers standing on rooftops at all.  Adapt suitable jobs, like using methods of replacing roof lights or profiled roof sheets from underneath with a good work platform. You can get adaptable roof fixings to make this easier.

Gotta Work from Above? Use a Platform

Of course, lots of work on roofs needs to be done from above. So the next step for ultimate safety is to try and use a mobile elevated working platform with a safe basket for workers to perch in.

But what if workers simply have to get onto that fragile roof?

Mitigate Risks, Fall Distances and Damage

You can spread the load on a fragile roof with stagings, and install perimeter edge protection.  The difference this makes is huge.

Make sure you have guard rails all over the place – on every work or access staging and platform.

Harness Up

And for maximum safety (especially if the stagings and guard rails are for some reason not possible) install a safety net under the roof, or better yet use a harness system on the workers.

If you use a harness, it needs to have enough solid anchor points, or there’s no point using it. And excellent training, discipline and supervision – well enforced.

Install Proprietary Covers

You can also cover fragile points with protective covers (see below) to work either temporarily or permanently as a great accident preventer.

And there you have it, the basic steps to reduce or eliminate your fragile roof accidents, some of the most dangerous accidents around.

Here are some more useful resources for fragile roof work:

Fragile roofs

Replacing Roof Sheets & Roof Lights

If you want any advice on your roof-related safety, get in touch we’re always happy to talk!

Do you have any questions about fragile roofs?

Or any tips to add to this guide?

Do share!

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.