Stay Safe Working Near Rooflights and Skylights
Since the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines in February, 2016, not a week seems to go by without news reports of some fairly hefty fines and sentences being handed out to duty holders in the UK who have breached the health and safety regulations. The total value of fines imposed have risen dramatically as a result of these new guidelines as the fines are now commensurate with the size of the company involved, the level of culpability of the company or duty holder and the degree of harm caused. Some of the most common accidents involve falls through rooflights and skylights, so today, we’re going to take a look at how you can make sure that your employees are safe when working near these roof windows.
Building owners and managers have a duty to ensure the safety of those accessing the roofs of their buildings. With an average of 9 deaths every year here in the UK resulting from a fall through a rooflight, working on a roof is a risky activity. Following one of these accidents, the fall is usually deemed totally avoidable by the Health and Safety Executive when they carry out an investigation into the incident. Careful planning is necessary when roof access is required and it’s essential that any workers accessing the roof are fully trained and have experience of this type of work.
Falls through fragile skylights usually occur on the roofs of warehouses, farm buildings and factories when repair and maintenance or cleaning work is being undertaken. This includes workers carrying out repair work, maintaining plant or installing equipment. Inspecting a roof or carrying out a survey may also involve accessing the roof. Regular cleaning work such as cleaning guttering can also lead to workers accessing fragile areas.
A major problem when working on a roof is that skylights and rooflights are not always clearly visible and the danger can be difficult to spot immediately. The rooflights may be may have been painted over the same colour as the roof rendering them difficult to make out or they may be covered in dirt, debris or vegetation like fallen leaves. Rooflights that have been in place for some time may have aged and become brittle compared with the surrounding surface.
Here are some tips to ensure that work is able to be carried out safely.
- Always carry out a risk assessment and plan the work accordingly.
- Always assume that a rooflight or skylight is fragile
- Install a protective cover on rooflights that is strong enough to prevent a person falling through them.
- If possible, carry out the work from ground level to avoid accessing the roof.
- Make sure that anybody accessing the roof has the relevant training and experience.
- Install a rooftop demarcation barrier that will prevent workers accessing the edge of the roof, areas of the roof containing skylights or areas of the roof which are fragile.
- Install a rooftop walkway system that provides a safe route to the area where work is to be carried out.