A recent HSE prosecution has highlighted the importance of temporary edge protection – and where guardrails are removed, the need for backup alternatives like man anchors.
In the incident in question, a scaffolder was stacking roofing sheets on a flat roof when he fell from the edge, landing seven metres below and sustaining fatal injuries.
The incident is made even more tragic by the fact that edge protection was installed on the roof, but the guardrails had been deliberately removed to allow access via the exposed edge.
Following the fall, a co-worker even went so far as to reinstall the removed roof rails, in an attempt to cover up the actions that had left the roof with no edge protection.
A HSE inspector said: “Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in Great Britain and businesses have to take the safety of their workers seriously.
“The risks of working at height are known. Scaffolders must ensure they use the right protective equipment and have sufficient edge protection in place to prevent workers falling.”
There are several options for roofs where permanent roof rails cannot be used – including collapsible guardrails that fold flat to the roof surface when not in use.
A temporary guardrail can be installed using posts that can be individually raised, providing safe access to specific parts of the roof, with optional toe boards to prevent objects from falling off the roof at low-level.
Where edge protection absolutely cannot be used, man anchors offer an alternative, tethering individuals to a safe point on the roof with a heavy anchor to clip on to.
For maximum protection – or on roofs where only part of the edge is protected, or where roof rails have been temporarily removed – combining edge protection with man anchors offers an extra level of safety, ensuring that where one method is absent, the other should ensure no falls are possible.