A dramatic incident in which a man fell through a fragile skylight into a swimming pool below might have been avoided if man anchors and walkovers had been used correctly while work was carried out to install solar panels on the roof.
The roof, on a private residence outbuilding in Kent, already had solar panels fitted to it by the same company in 2011, and they returned in April 2013 to replace several faulty panels.
While carrying a panel on to the roof, one of the three-man team stepped on to one of eight fragile roof lights, which gave way, allowing him to fall through to ground level below from the height of a typical barn or small warehouse.
In a potentially life-saving stroke of luck, the 32-year-old landed in a swimming pool beneath – and while the water helped to absorb the impact, he still suffered fractures to a vertebra and to his shin, and was out of work until January 2016.
Even now he has only returned to work part-time, and the HSE warned that suitable fall prevention measures must be provided and used correctly, with the proper training, if similar incidents are to be avoided in future.
HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: “The injured worker suffered serious injury in the fall and could have been killed. He and his colleagues were effectively left to their own devices with equipment that was not wholly suited for the task at hand. In short, better equipment, training and supervision should have been provided.”
Although harnesses had been given to the men, they were not properly shown how to use them, despite the fact that the company involved had previously been served notice by the HSE for dangerous work on a fragile roof.
Man anchors are one way to mitigate fall risk, by tethering individuals to a secure point on the roof; for fragile roofs where regular access is required, such as to maintain and clean solar panels, walkovers can bridge the weakest parts, as well as defining a route across the most stable part of the roof.