Working at height, and particularly on a roof, is a dangerous activity which needs to be fully risk assessed by an employer before workers start work. Falls from height are responsible for the majority of deaths and serious injuries for those working in construction, with roofers accounting for nearly a quarter of all those killed in falls from height.
It doesn’t matter whether employees are working on the roof for a short or long period of time – the risks involved are the same. In fact, those who are on the roof for a ‘quick look’ or minor repair are often more at risk than those who work consistently on roofs because companies may fail to provide the necessary protection and preventative measures required to comply with health and safety law.
When we think of falling from a roof, the immediate thought tends to be going over the edge. However, falls through gaps or holes and through fragile sections or roof lights are just as common. Similarly, others can be injured on the ground through people or materials falling off roofs and hitting them.
Plan Properly for Prevention
All work at height should be carefully planned to assess all of the risks involved and put measures in place to protect workers from these risks and avoid them happening. The first step in planning should be to decide whether work at height is absolutely necessary and where possible it should be avoided.
The next step is to make sure the appropriate equipment is in place. This will include guardrail systems and edge protection. Guardrail fall protection is essential for collective health and safety, but is just one element of necessary equipment when working at height for preventing the fall of people and materials. Collective protection systems should always be considered above personal protection systems such as harnesses.
According to the HSE’s guidelines on the Work at Height Regulations (2005), the guardrail and other equipment needs to be of suitable and sufficient dimension (height and width), strength and rigidity so as to prevent falls. Additionally, the structures to which equipment is attached needs to be of sufficient strength so as not to give way. HSE guidelines state that guardrails should be of at least 950mm and should be positioned so that there is no gap exceeding 470mm.
If the risk of falling cannot be eliminated altogether, then equipment must be installed to minimise the distance and consequences of a potential fall, including nets, air or bean bags and a fall arrest harness system.
One of the major risks when working on a roof is getting on and off, so a secure means of entry and exit is imperative, with the minimum requirement being a properly secured ladder.
If you are unsure which safety measures and equipment are necessary for the work you are planning on carrying out, we can provide you with a free site assessment and advice. Our guardrails are completely free standing and require minimal maintenance (although an annual inspection will be required), and can be adapted to fit most sites, including gables and sloping roofs.