Advice for Duty Holders of Buildings with Flat Roofs
If you’re responsible for roof repairs and have (or think you may have) a fragile roof, whether you’re a building owner or occupier, a farmer, a landlord of industrial units or run a workshop, then you have responsibilities towards yourself and others. On average here in the UK, nine people die every year as a result of falling through a fragile roof or a roof light. Many more people suffer serious injuries when accidents occur on the roofs of warehouses, farm buildings and factories while work is being carried out. Whether the work involves repairs, maintenance of plant, installation of equipment, cleaning of gutters and skylights or surveying the roof and inspecting work that has been carried out, roofs are dangerous and accidents may occur. Having the correct equipment is vital and can prevent any incidents from occurring, such as a demarcation barrier for flat roofs.
Here are some tips to follow to ensure that you, as a duty holder, are meeting your responsibilities when it comes to a fragile roof:
- - Unless you are absolutely certain that the roof is sound, always assume that it is fragile.
- - Do not go onto a fragile roof and don’t allow or expect others to do so unless the correct type of preventative equipment is available to prevent falls and the person accessing the roof has the skills and experience to use the equipment correctly.
- - Never go onto a roof to carry out work like cleaning gutters, carrying out inspections or surveys. All of these activities can be carried out either from ground level or by using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) or a tower scaffold.
- - Make sure that any employees, contractors or subcontractors who need to do work on a fragile roof have undergone the requisite training, are experienced and aware of the risks involved.
- - Never walk along the line of fixing bolts above supports or along the ridge or the roof.
- - Make sure that the company or individual accessing the roof has sufficient time to plan the work. Make sure that they know what type of roofing material the roof is fabricated from, the condition and history of the roof and its accessibility from both inside and outside the building.
- - As the person or company carrying out the work to describe verbally (or in a written method statement) exactly how they intend to carry out the work. For example:
- Can the roof sheets and skylights be replaced from underneath?
- What type of access equipment will they use?
- If necessary, how will they get on and off the roof?
- How they intend to prevent falls through the roof – for example by using guard rails or a roof walkway system.
- How your employees or other people using the building will be protected from falling material.
- Be prepared to stop the work immediately if the contractors do not adhere to their method statement or even if you feel that the work looks unsafe.
Always remember that as a building owner, user or managing agent, if you are the duty holder for the premises in question, then the ultimately responsibility for maintaining safe working practices lies with you.