Working on roofs can be extremely dangerous, especially if the roof surface is fragile. Falls through fragile roofs are a leading cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry. But these accidents are preventable with proper planning and safe work practices.
Who's at Risk?
Workers doing short-term maintenance, repair, and cleaning jobs on roofs are most at risk of falling through a fragile surface. Older roofs on factories, warehouses, and farms tend to be the most hazardous. Watch out for materials like corroded metal, fiber cement, rotted wood, and skylights. Assume all these are fragile unless proven otherwise.
Avoid the Hazard
The best way to prevent falls is to avoid going on the roof altogether. Many jobs like replacing roof panels or skylights can be done from underneath using platforms and adapted fixings. Consult a roofing contractor about options. Elevating work platforms also allow access without stepping on the roof.
If you must go on the roof, use stagings, guardrails, safety nets or harnesses for fall protection. Make sure to properly anchor tie-off points for harnesses. Install covers over fragile areas that must be crossed.
Careful Planning is Key
Preventing fragile roof falls requires careful planning of the job, proper equipment, experienced and trained workers, and diligent supervision. Rushing or taking shortcuts on roof work can be fatal. Always take time to plan and implement robust fall protection measures.
Building owners and managers must assess roofs and ensure contractors are competent to work safely on them. Specifying new non-fragile roofing materials can also help reduce future risk. Don't allow dangerous work practices on your roofs. Enforcement agencies can prohibit and penalise improper roof work.
By being informed, vigilant and proactive about fragile roof hazards, we can prevent needless tragedies. Take your time and work safely up there!