Darren Rickett, the managing director of DPR Roofing, explains why having more health and safety inspectors in the roofing trade is a matter of life and death.
Every week I seem to read another story on the internet about a roofer getting seriously hurt or losing their life because of a company’s lack of diligence when it comes to health and safety. I’ve been in the roofing game for more than 20 years and it would appear that things are now worse than they have ever been.
Let’s look at some figures.
According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), falls from height are the single biggest cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Which should come as no surprise to anyone who works in the roofing trade.
4,000 employees are said to have suffered major injuries after falling from height at work last year while a further 21 workers lost their lives.
Of those that died, over half of the roofers did so after falling through fragile materials while 30% fell from edges and openings. Things that health and safety regulations are set up to prevent.
But it’s not just the fatalities. We’re talking serious injuries too. Heartbreaking stories like this one are all too commonplace: Paralysed roofer rams home safety message (http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2011/09/15/paralysed-roofer-rams-home-safety-message/)
Now, I’m not completely naive. I know that proper health and safety procedures have an impact on the bottom line and sometimes get, unintentionally, neglected when deadlines are tight.
As a result, I think that it is fair to say there is almost never a willful desire to harm. But ignorance is no excuse. Neglect is no excuse. Forgetting is no excuse. And a recession is no excuse. Not when lives are at stake.
Thankfully, some companies that do fail to follow the rules are caught out. The HSE (again) frequently highlights the problem. Here’s an example: Derby firm fined for unsafe roof work: http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2011/coi-em-23311.htm
I bet they won’t do that again. Unfortunately not all companies suffer that same fate.
From my point-of-view, the important sentence in that story is this one: “Passing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors.”
And now we get to the point of this blog. In my eyes there is a way to bring the fatality and injury count down. But it won’t be popular. And it will cost money.
The best way to reduce the number of companies flaunting the regulations – and therefore putting the lives of roofers at risk – is to increase the number of inspectors to such a level that there is a real possibility that they might get caught. As it stands, I would suggest that most companies that are doing wrong, are doing so in the belief that they won’t get caught.
More inspectors means more chance of getting caught = less people breaking the rules. It makes sense to me.
The other thing to do is to make the regulations more sensible so that I don’t spend half my days reading updates and completing forms. But that’s a topic for another time.
At my company, DPR Roofing, the fulfillment of health and safety regulations is a priority. And even though that means I spend a lot of time on paperwork we do it for a good reason: to avoid fatalities and injuries.
We arrange regular on site inspections, produce management reports and gather feedback about how we can do things better.
And I make absolutely certain that each roofing site is closely supervised from the erection of the scaffolding to the point at which our materials are removed from it.
I don’t do it for my own health. I do it for the well being of my workers. All companies should do the same. And they would, even the unscrupulous ones, if they thought they would get caught if they didn’t. More inspectors are required. End of.
Darren Rickett is the managing director of DPR Ltd, a firm of Leeds roofers that provide roof repair services for homes and businesses across West Yorkshire. You can follow Darren on Twitter (@leedsroofer )