Falls from roofs cause many serious and fatal injuries every year. Although the risks of working at height are well known many people do not observe simple basic precautions during short term maintenance work. Because many roofs are made of fragile materials the hazards include that of falling through the roof as well as from the edge.
Roof work should always be planned; consideration should particularly be given to edge protection, safe access, access routes and fragility.
Many of the accidents involving falls from roofs happen when access is needed in response to a leak, blocked gutters and the like. Usually this need coincides with bad weather which makes the work more hazardous because it increases the risk of slipping. Because immediate action is perceived as necessary the work goes ahead without planning and with the risk of serious injury.
Employers should always plan roof work in advance. Competent contractors will explain the precautions they intend to take and confirm that it complies with legal requirements. In emergency situations too, it is best practice to use contractors.
If employers intend to use their own staff and bear full responsibility for the activity they should give forethought to the issues that will be faced. They should have available plant and equipment that will give safe access to roofs, have employees who are competent to do the work and have been instructed in the precautions they are expected to take; and provide competent close supervision of the work.