Health & Safety News

News added on 10.02.2021

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Fragile surfaces

Basic control measures might have prevented death

A roofer died in a fall through a fragile roof. Could this fall have been prevented and why was the building owner prosecuted?

The roofer was completing snagging work on a replacement roof. While he was on part of the old roof, which was made of asbestos cement sheets, it gave way. He fell six metres to the ground below, sustaining fatal injuries.

The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the area accessed by the roofer did not have safety nets fitted underneath. Asbestos cement sheets are known to be a fragile surface and suitable control measures should have been put in place to prevent workers on the roof from falling through them.

The HSE took enforcement action against the building occupier for failing to take reasonably practicable measures to reduce the risks to those working on the roof.

Building owner, Pearsons Glass, pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under s.3 Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure the safety of non-employees. The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £6,600.

The prosecution of the roofing contractor is still ongoing.

This case highlights the health and safety duties of businesses when they engage contractors. They must ensure that the contractor they select is competent to plan and manage the work safely, including training and supervising their workers, otherwise they may incur liability for failing to safeguard the contractor’s employees in the event of an accident.

Control measures should have been in place to make those working on the roof aware of the fragile surfaces and to prevent them from falling. As well as prosecuting the roofing contractor, the building owner was also prosecuted for failing to safeguard the roofer by selecting a suitably competent contractor.

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