Makeshift walkovers left worker stranded when colleague fell

An incident recently reported by the HSE shows the importance of using proper walkovers when accessing fragile roofs, after two individuals were caught up in a severe fall when using homemade crawling boards instead.

The event itself took place on July 30th 2014, and the investigation has just concluded, with the engineering firm that employed the two men fined £267,000 plus costs of £7,750.

On the day, one man was on the roof using homemade crawling boards to spread his weight across the weak fibreboard, and the second man was underneath in a man-basket raised from ground level on a telehandler.

When the roof gave way, the first man fell six metres to the floor below, sustaining serious injuries to his head, lungs and hip.

But worse, his injuries left nobody to operate the ground-level controls of the telehandler, forcing his colleague to clamber down the machine’s boom to go for help.

While a risk assessment had been carried out, it was not specific to the job being carried out, and had been left in the office.

The HSE investigated the circumstances surrounding the incident and ruled that there were insufficient coverings and platforms on the weak fibreboard roof to protect against such a fall.

Although homemade crawling boards were used, they were not enough to prevent the roof from breaking through under the weight of the victim – leaving his colleague stranded in the man-basket, also close to roof height.

Proper walkovers are essential on uneven and weak roof surfaces, providing peace of mind that the roof has been fully assessed and walkovers installed that are a specific match to the job.

This protects regular workers and one-off contractors coming on to the site, and removes the risk of inappropriate working methods using homemade equivalents that do not offer real protection.