An absence of edge protection on a flat roof led to a sign-fitter falling five metres and sustaining serious, life-threatening injuries in an incident in Sheffield.
On April 13th 2015 a signage company was contracted to install a large sign on the end wall of industrial premises, which were located alongside a flat-roofed building.
A team of three sign-fitters climbed on to the flat roof in order to use it as a platform to reach the gable end of the industrial premises.
However, the roof was not equipped with edge protection, and during the course of the work one of the fitters fell from the edge, landing a distance of five metres below.
His injuries were severe – a chipped vertebra, several broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a fractured skull – and the fall could easily have been fatal.
Inspector for the HSE Helen Barley said: “Failure to prevent falls when working at height can lead to serious injury or death.”
The incident is a reminder of the importance of fitting guardrails to roof edges, particularly if access is needed for regular maintenance work, or on flat roofs which may be perceived as ‘safer’ than pitched roofs by workers, and therefore lead to a greater risk of complacency.
Guardrails can of course protect the edges of pitched roofs too, not just against the risk of a person slipping and falling off, but also tools and other materials that might slide down the incline and fall over the edge.
Good roof rails can incorporate two main elements – creating safety barriers high enough to prevent a person from falling, but also with a solid panel at ground level to create a physical barrier against small objects rolling off of the roof.
On pitched roofs where access is needed regularly, consider combining walkovers with roof rails; the walkovers to create flat walkways along safe routes, with safety barriers where they near the roof edge.