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Roof work safety warning from HSE

posted 29 Nov 2013, 08:45 by Unknown user   [ updated 29 Nov 2013, 08:49 ]
London building owners and operators undertaking roof work are being warned by the Health and Safety Executive to review their safety arrangements after a worker died and another was left fighting for his life after both falling through fragile roofs.

The urgent safety alert was issued today after a contractor died on 16 November when he fell through a corrugated asbestos roof on a Rainham industrial unit while carrying out routine maintenance.

On the same day, just a matter of hours earlier, another worker plunged seven metres through a skylight as he undertook minor repairs to the roof of an Enfield garage. He remains in an induced coma with multiple injuries.

HSE says it believes both incidents were “entirely preventable” and should serve as a stark reminder “of the simple, well-established precautions that can be taken to ensure safe work at height”.

Owners and occupiers are being told that work at height should be avoided if possible, but precautions should be taken if it cannot. Among the list of requirements the regulator issued are that they must control access to their roofs and provide signs warning of fragility at suitable access points.

Similarly, HSE is warning workers and contractors to operate with caution, treating any roof as fragile unless they have proof otherwise.

Falls from height were responsible for nearly a third of all work-related deaths in 2012/13. In the course of the year, 46 people died in falls.

‘’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,” said Richard Boland, HSE’s head of operations for London.

“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.”

HSE are investigating both incidents and is withholding the names and details of the incidents while it continues.

HSE are telling building owners and occupiers to:
  • 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

While contractors and workers must:
  • 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
  • train and supervise workers properly

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