According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), almost one in five deaths in the construction industry involves roof work, the most common causes being falls from roof edges or through fragile surfaces.

The saddest thing about this statistic is that a great many of these accidents could have been avoided through the implementation of proper safety measures – using the correct equipment and ensuring workers receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision. Take a moment to read this week’s blog for some key safety tips.

Assess all work at height

Whether you’re a roofing specialist (like Sheriff’s team) or a general builder that’s carrying out some roofing repairs, the most important thing to recognise is that all work on roofs can be dangerous and, even if you know a job will only take a few minutes, you need to assess and control the risk.

The law says you must organise and plan all roof work so it is carried out safely and this includes ensuring workers are trained, competent and instructed in use of the necessary precautions.

On business premises, contractors need to work closely with the client and agree arrangements for managing the work and communicating the precautions to those involved. A thorough risk assessment and agreed ‘method statement’ is the usual way this is achieved.

Because they are so often mentioned in accident reports, there are three key issues that roofers must especially be aware of – safe access, roof edges and openings, and fragile surfaces.

Safe access

Safe access to a roof is a critical consideration, requiring careful planning, particularly where work progresses along the roof.

Typical methods to access roofs are:

  • General access scaffolds
  • Stair towers
  • Fixed or mobile scaffold towers
  • Mobile access equipment
  • Ladders
  • Roof access hatches.

Be sure to use the access equipment that’s appropriate for your job and that it has been inspected and tested. Ensure access routes are free of obstruction and support safe access for anyone that may have to carry tools or other materials whilst navigating the site.

Roof edges and openings

Falls from roof edges occur on both commercial and domestic projects, including new builds and refurbishment jobs. Many of the deaths that occur each year involve smaller builders working on the roof of domestic dwellings without the proper safety measures in place.

To prevent people or materials falling from the edge of a sloping roof, scaffolding should be used. Edge protection should also be fitted to the eaves of the roof and, on terraced properties, this should be on both sides of the house. Where work is of a short duration (with tasks measured in minutes), secured ladders to access the roof and proper roof ladders may be used.

With regards to flat roofs, falls from the edge can be prevented via simple edge protection arrangements – a secure double guardrail and toe-board around the edge.

Other safety measures such as using a net, soft landing system or harness can be considered as additions to the above (not in place of them).

Fragile surfaces

Following a safe system of work is important in any roofing job but even more so if the roof surface is deemed to be fragile. Using a platform beneath the roof is advisable wherever that’s possible and, for work on or near fragile roof surfaces, the safe system might require a combination of stagings, guard rails, fall restraint, fall arrest and safety nets slung beneath and close to the roof.

Remember that all roofs should be treated as fragile until a competent person has confirmed they are not. Do not trust any sheeted roof, whatever the material, to bear the weight of a person. This includes the roof ridge and purlins.

Fragile rooflights are a particular hazard. Some are difficult to see in certain light conditions and others may be hidden by paint. You must provide protection in these areas, either by using barriers or covers that are secured and labelled with a warning.

Stay safe

No-one working in construction wants to be counted among the alarming statistics provided by the HSE and the good news is there is much that can be done to prevent anyone from such a fate.

The number of accidents and injuries related to working at heights in roofing can be significantly reduced by prioritising safety and ensuring adherence to the recommended practices and precautions.

With proper training, adequate equipment in place and meticulous attention to safety protocols, lives can be saved. Whether it’s a large or small project, let’s never forget this important life-lesson and play our part by creating working environments that keep people safe.


Feature image: dear2627/