A Roof Barrier System Helps Avoid the Risk of Falling Objects
When it comes to working at height, especially on roofs, we all have a responsibility to make sure that we follow best practice to ensure not only our own safety, but that of others. We often concentrate our considerations on the way in which we work and the access equipment we use to undertake the task at hand. However, one of the very real dangers that needs to be taken into account when working at height is the danger of falling objects.
Every year we see many injuries (and fatalities) as a result of being hit by an object which has fallen from a height. While the dangers of falling objects may be obvious, planning and organising work at height means carrying out an adequate risk assessment in order to control the risks. The Work at Height Regulations (WAHR 2005) specifically addresses the risk of falling objects (Regulation 10) and the danger areas that should be considered (Regulation 11).
When it comes to carrying out risk assessments, however, we may underestimate just how severe the outcome of an incident involving a falling object could be, mainly because it’s difficult to predict precisely what would happen as something falls from a height. There are several factors that may affect the outcome of such an incident, all of which need to be considered during the risk assessment process. For example:
- The more an object weighs and the further it falls, the more damage it is likely to do.
- Objects do not necessarily fall in a straight line – they sometimes fall outwards form the point they start from or hit something on the way down which alters their path of descent.
- When a falling object does hit the ground it could bounce or roll away from the initial point of impact, extending the danger zone.
- How a falling object strikes somebody will cause different injuries – for example, a sharp edge will do more damage than a flat surface. A falling object may deliver just a glancing blow or could strike somebody square on.
- The shape of the falling object needs to be considered, something as innocuous as a screwdriver or welding rod may turn into a “spear” when falling.
- Whether the work being carried out is indoors or outdoors could also affect the outcome of any incident – for example the wind may affect the way in which an object falls.
- Who is working beneath you and who is working above you are both factors to be taken into consideration and it’s important to ensure that you’re aware if anybody begins to work above or beneath you once you’ve started the work at hand.
Safety when working at height depends of putting the right controls in place before the work begins. One of the major considerations is to plan or organise the work so that working at height is avoided wherever possible which will eliminate both the risk of falling and the risk of falling objects. The most effective method of preventing injuries from falling objects is to use a roof barrier system that prevents access to the roof edges. This means that all work carried out should take place at least 2 metres from the edge which not only helps to prevent falls, but has the effect of keeping tools and materials away from the edge of the roof too, making it much less likely that anybody below will be at risk of being hit by falling objects.