Following the paralysis of a 69-year-old man who fell through a rooflight on a Scottish border farm, the HSE is stressing the value of precautions like man anchors and walkovers to prevent similar incidents.
On March 14th 2013, Neil Knox was repairing a roof at a farm in Lauder when, during a tea break, he apparently returned alone to the roof and subsequently fell through a rooflight.
He had previously been using crawler boards to help spread his weight; however, he had removed three of these when dismounting the roof for his tea break.
It is unclear from the incident report whether he reinstated them when he returned to the roof, but the HSE does say that the crawler boards did not have any handrails to stop workers from stepping off of them.
Mr Knox himself has no memory of what happened, but is now confined to a wheelchair with partial paralysis of the muscles used to breathe.
Permanent walkovers are one of the best ways to prevent similar incidents, not only as demarcation systems for safe routes across the roof, but with guardrails to prevent access to weaker parts too.
HSE inspector Ritchie McCrae said: “This was an entirely avoidable incident. Falling from height is one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work.”
A fifth of fatal falls occur when an individual falls through a rooflight or fragile roof, with seven people killed each year on average; simple walkovers and man anchors could help to tackle this in the years to come, to hopefully reduce that number to zero.