RASCS News

Runcorn business park operator has been fined £13,000 after a worker fell more than 13 feet through a fragile roof.

A Runcorn business park operator has been fined £13,000 after a worker fell more than 13 feet through a fragile roof.

The man sustained life-threatening injuries, including a fractured skull and collapsed lung as a result of the fall, which happened while he was carrying out repairs at a premises on The Heath Business and Technology Park on 17 June 2021.

The work had not been properly planned, and risk factors had not been identified and managed.

  • In the five-year period between 2017 and 2022, 174 workers in Great Britain – a quarter of those killed in accidents at work – tragically fell to their death. HSE guidance can be found at: Work at height – HSE.

Nathan Cook, an enforcement lawyer at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told Warrington Magistrates Court, the man was an employee of SOG Resources Limited. He had been carrying out repairs to a building occupied by Arvia Technology Ltd.

The company had been carrying out the work on the roof for almost three weeks and despite regular checks by the engineering manager, no measures were taken to mitigate the dangers posed by the presence of weaker skylight panels. These parts of the roof should have been covered or had perimeter barriers put in place to prevent access.

The employee was conducting the repair when he tripped and fell through an unprotected skylight, landing on the ground more than 13 feet below. The fall was partially broken by rubber matting on the floor of the building, which may have prevented even more serious injury.

An investigation by HSE found that SOG Limited had failed to take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of workers on the roof.

SOG Resources Limited of The Heath Business & Technical Park, The Heath, Runcorn, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. The company was fined £13,000 and was ordered to pay £2,666 costs at a hearing at Warrington Magistrates Court on 27 June 2023.

HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller said: “This was a very serious incident, and it is fortunate nobody was killed as a result.

“This work had been planned for around six months; however, the risk assessments were inadequate. Work had carried on for three weeks prior to the incident, and the manager had visited, yet no action to prevent the fall through the roof light was taken.”

Source: HSE

Remember:

Assess the roof: Before starting any work, evaluate the condition of the roof to determine if it is fragile. Look for signs of damage, decay, or weakness, such as cracked or sagging areas.

Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE): Wear a safety harness with a lanyard and anchor point to prevent falls. Use non-slip footwear to maintain good traction on the roof surface.

Conduct a risk assessment: Identify potential hazards, such as skylights, loose tiles, or weak sections, and develop strategies to mitigate those risks. Plan the work accordingly and communicate the plan with other workers.

Provide proper training: Ensure all workers receive comprehensive training on working at heights, fall protection, and safe practices for working on fragile roofs. This includes familiarising them with the correct use of safety equipment.

Secure the work area: Cordon off the work area to prevent unauthorised access. Use warning signs or barriers to alert others to the potential dangers of the fragile roof.

Utilise roof access equipment: Install safe access equipment, such as properly secured ladders or scaffolding, to reach the roof. Ensure that the access points are stable and capable of supporting the weight of workers and equipment.

Distribute weight evenly: When working on a fragile roof, distribute your weight evenly across the roof surface to minimize stress on any single area. Avoid putting excessive pressure on weak spots.

Use crawl boards or roof walkway systems: If possible, use crawl boards or roof walkway systems to create a safe path and distribute weight evenly. These devices provide a stable surface to work on while protecting the fragile roof.

Avoid unnecessary movement: Minimise unnecessary movement on the fragile roof to reduce the risk of accidental damage. Plan your work efficiently to avoid excessive walking or dragging heavy objects across the surface.

Regularly inspect and maintain the roof: Conduct routine inspections to identify and address any signs of deterioration or damage on the roof. Promptly repair or reinforce weak areas to maintain the structural integrity.

Monitor weather conditions: Pay attention to weather forecasts and avoid working on fragile roofs during adverse weather conditions, such as high winds, heavy rain, or icy conditions, which can further weaken the roof and increase the risk of falls.

Have an emergency plan: Develop an emergency plan in case a fall or accident occurs. Ensure all workers are aware of the plan and know how to respond to an emergency situation.

Remember, working on fragile roofs can be hazardous, and these measures are intended to minimize the risks. It’s crucial to prioritise safety and follow industry best practices to prevent falls and accidents.

Source: Me.