Workman fell head first though rooflight

Fragile roof dangers not assessed and properly controlled

A building and maintenance company has been fined after an employee fell 5m through a fragile rooflight causing life changing head injuries during May 2018 at a motor vehicle repair workshop in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Birmingham Magistrates heard how two employees were replacing a leaking roof sheet above the workshop. The pitched roof consisted of corrugated asbestos cement sheets and perspex roof lights.

The workmen accessed the roof by ladder positioned at the rear of the premises and walked along the roof valley to the site of the repair at the front of the building. They did so several times during the course of repair and also worked from a mezzanine floor below part of the roof.

Whilst working on the mezzanine one of the men heard a “cracking sound and shout” and saw his colleague who had had fallen 5m “head first” through a fragile roof light suffering life changing head injuries.

No precautions in place to prevent fall

HSE investigators found the contractor had failed to assess the risks of the work and that there were no precautions in place to prevent falls from height through the fragile roof.

  • M & M Damproof Co. Limited – of Clements Road, Birmingham pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9 (2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £996.79.

HSE inspector Amanda James said:“Falls through fragile roofs are a far too common cause of serious and fatal injury in the construction industry and the precautions are well established. All roofs can become fragile over time. In particular cement sheets and roof lights are known to be fragile.

Work on fragile roofs should be avoided where possible, for example by replacing roof sheets from underneath. If it is necessary to go onto the roof, suitable measures such as platforms, coverings and guard rails should be used to prevent falls.

Walking along valleys and gutters without protection is not safe; a mis-step, slip or trip could be fatal. With proper planning, safe systems of work and equipment, accidents like this are completely avoidable.”

Workman fell head first though rooflight