When working with contractors, safety on site should be the biggest concern, especially as falls from height equates to the highest cause of workplace accidents. This is especially prevalent amongst roofers which, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), accounts for 24% of all working at height fatalities within the construction industry.
These accidents don’t just occur when specialist roofing work is being carried out, it can also happen during routine maintenance work, so it’s key that you employ roofing contractors who have the relevant training and insurances. Accessing a roof can be a major risk if approached in the wrong way; therefore, it is essential that the correct risk assessments are put into place at the start of a project.
This may seem obvious advice, but year-on-year accidents involving roofers are continuing to rise. This rise is why it is important to only bring in contractors who are competent. Planning is also key. The law states that you must organise all roof work so that it is carried out safely and an important factor is ensuring the correct access equipment is used. The use of ladders, especially roof ladders, is usually the first port of call. However, ladders aren’t always suitable for every job. It is recommended that they are only used on a pitch of 25 to 65° which covers the majority of roofs in the UK. For any roofs outside of this range, other types of access equipment should be considered. This could include mobile or fixed scaffolding towers, platforms or a stair tower.
The type of roof is also an important consideration, and additional access solutions should be considered. When working on materials that cannot bear a person’s weight, such as sheeted roofs including corrugated, polycarbonate or steel, cantilever towers or walkway platforms are an acceptable option.
For flat roofing, falls can be prevented with a secure double guardrail and toeboard around the edge. While sloping roofs have the additional issue of dropped materials, as well as people falling from the edge. Here, scaffolding is required, along with edge protection to the eaves.
A secure means of entry and exit is also required. Whether it is on a flat or sloping roof, it is essential to understand the different precautions that need to be taken to ensure workers minimise the risk of injury, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should also be considered as well as the access solutions being used.
When considering PPE requirements, high visibility jackets and steel-toe boots have become the norm, but when working at height, it’s important that further equipment is available for contractors where required. When working on or near fragile roof surfaces, look at offering a combination of stagings, guardrails, fall restraint, fall arrest and safety nets.
It’s not just equipment that should be considered when undertaking any roofing work; it is also important to assess the environmental factors. Weather conditions are one key issue that could turn what was once a safe job into a potentially dangerous one. Elements such as rain, ice and snow can all turn secure footing into a skating rink, whereas high gusts of wind can lead to loss of balance and falling materials. Roof sheets and, in some circumstances, roofing membrane should not be fixed in windy weather as people can easily be thrown off-balance while carrying a sheet up to or on the roof, particularly when handling large sheeting materials during work on industrial buildings.
It is impossible for contractors to avoid working at height, but it is possible to help them plan for every eventuality. By carrying out risk assessments, sourcing the right equipment and taking the time to assess the environment, it can all contribute to offering them a safer working space and can make all the difference when working at height.