Roof work: the biggest cause of deaths in construction

WOBO thanks International Workplace for the reminder.

A roof worker in a harness

Working at height is the most frequent cause of fatal accidents to workers – there are an average of 37 fatal injuries per year. Half of all fall from height deaths over the last five years were in the construction sector (an annual average of 19 per year). Over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges and through fragile roofs.

Roof work accounts for a quarter of all deaths in the construction industry, the HSE has said. Falls through fragile materials, such as roof lights and asbestos cement roofing sheets, account for more of these deaths than any other single cause.

Not all those killed while working on roofs are trained roofers: many people accessing roofs are maintenance workers. There are also many serious injuries, often resulting in permanent disabilities.

The HSE continues to report on numerous cases in which employers have been sentenced as a result of a fall from a roof.

The HSE has issued guidance on how to plan and work safely on roofs. It covers new buildings, repair, maintenance, cleaning work and demolition. It also includes some guidance for people not directly carrying out work on a roof, such as clients, designers and specifiers.

Roof work is an issue not just for construction companies. Other workers, such as building maintenance staff and surveyors, can also fall from or through roofs. This guidance will be useful to anyone planning, arranging or supervising roof work, including:

  • Directors and partners of companies who carry out roof work;
  • Clients of projects involving roof work;
  • Designers and specifiers of buildings and components;
  • Principal contractors for projects that include roof work;
  • Owners of buildings where roof work may take place;
  • Trade union safety representatives and employees’ safety representatives;
  • Anyone carrying out roof work, including employees and the self-employed and safety consultants.

Download or buy the HSE’s full guidance here.

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