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Work at heights continues as top workplace hazard

Health & Safety
BG Orange

Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, particularly on smaller projects. Over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges; and through fragile roofs or roof lights.

This month we thought we would provide advice relating to roof safety for your consideration and possible actions. This procedure applies equally to contractors who may be employed for roof works.

Roof work is a high-risk activity, sometimes with fragile materials situated on the roof areas. A ‘fragile’ roof is one that does not safely support the weight of a person or materials.

The applicable legislation to consider are the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The expected compliance procedures are firstly to avoid work at height where possible or use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where working at height cannot be avoided.

It is a requirement then to plan and organise considering the following:

  • No work at height to be carried out if it can be done another way not involving heights
  • Work at height must be properly planned, supervised and carried out as safely as possible
  • Ensure that emergency rescue procedures are planned
  • Ensure that any work takes place only in suitable weather conditions, e.g. not in wind, rain, ice, extreme cold, fog and snow 
  • Everyone involved in working at height must be appropriately trained
  • The place of work and the means of access must have features to prevent falls.
  • Equipment provided for work at height must be the most suitable available, provide collective measures (e.g. guard rails) with priority given to personal protection (e.g. safety harnesses)
  • Where there is a risk of personal injury by a falling object, ensure that the area underneath is clearly signed and that people are excluded and unable to access
  • A work permit must be completed before access and work tasks are undertaken
  • Follow the control measures detailed in the risk assessment and detailed safe system of work

The risk assessment should consider as a minimum:

  • Access and Egress to the roof
  • Hazards on the roof, e.g. flat, sloping, plant etc. 
  • The edge protection
  • The fall arrest equipment (fixed or mobile)
  • Emergency rescue plan
  • The risk of falling material
  • Training qualifications
  • Weather conditions
  • Employee welfare against adverse weather
  • Fragile surfaces

Where safety harnesses are used, they must be:

  • Appropriate for the user and be maintained in good condition.
  • Be securely attached to an anchorage point of sufficient strength.
  • Fitted with as short a lanyard as possible that enables the wearer to effectively work without reaching the roof edge. 
  • Periodically inspected as part of other roof safety systems.

Fragile surfaces should be clearly signed and or provided with barrier protection.

To help we would recommend displaying the below text in the form of a warning sign:


•         Have your approved Method Statement?
•         Have a completed Permit to Work signed by You and US?
•         You are Safety qualified to work on roofs?
•         Do you have suitable work equipment to prevent falls from roof edge or through fragile roof materials?
•         Ensure weather is safe for access?
•         You have seen test certification for the roof safety system?
•         You have a suitably tested harness if required?
•         You are wearing suitable Personal Protective Equipment

This Roof Has The Following Safety System: (add as required)

  • Fixed guard rail
  • Eyebolts
  • Wire mansafe
  • Required use of harness
  • Dedicated walkways
  • Signed escape routes
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