The ongoing dangers of roof work

As any person who has worked on a roof will be able to say, it is very risky work, and therefore vital to comply with health and safety regulations to prevent an accident at work from taking place.

Unfortunately, the urge to take shortcuts when it comes to the wellbeing of workers is often too great to resist for some businesses, which are happy to cut corners if it means saving money and time.

In November alone, a number of penalties were issued to companies and individuals after work accident claims, highlighting how mistakes are still being made and shortcuts taken which are potentially compromising the health and wellbeing of the nation’s workers.

One of these cases involved two roofers who were given suspended sentences after a Derbyshire office worker was injured when a roll of roofing felt fell through the ceiling of her office.

It occurred when Kathleen Philipson of Allestree, Derby, was sitting at her desk at offices in Nottingham Road, Ripley, when a metre-long, 37 kg roll fell through a roof light and came through the ceiling, hitting her on the shoulder.

She was taken to hospital with injuries to her head, shoulder and left arm and was off work for two weeks following the incident, with a subsequent HSE investigation finding that contractor Jason Lunt had allowed re-felting work to start on the flat roof before adequate protection had been installed.

This meant that as Gregory Wright, a self-employed roofer contracted by Mr Lunt, moved one of the six rolls of roof felt that were stood up on the roof, another one fell over and went through the unguarded roof light.

Mr Jason Lunt, 41, of Valley Road, Bloxwich, in the West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and Gregory Wright, also 41, of Tewkesbury Road, Bloxwich, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the same act.

Both received sentences of 18 weeks, suspended for 12 months on the condition they complete 280 hours of community service, while both were also ordered to pay GBP 2,114 costs at Derby Magistrates Court.

Another penalty was issued in November after a roofer was caught on camera working on an industrial unit roof without any safety equipment.

Michael Hallwood and his son Michael Thomas Hallwood, partners in Cladding Coatings, were fined after a worker was seen potentially placing his life in danger on a roof at Farrar Close, off Brunel Drive, Newark, on June 8th 2010.

He was photographed by a member of the public, who sent the evidence to the HSE, showing him undertaking cleaning work on the roof, which contained around 80 potentially fragile roof lights, using no safety equipment, edge protection or harnesses to prevent a fall and subsequent injury or even death.

At Nottingham Magistrates Court, Mr Hallwood, of Ashmond, Springhead, Oldham, and his son, of Bradley Fold, Oldham, pleaded guilty to breaching section 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, with each fined GBP 2,500 and ordered to pay costs of GBP 2,604 between them.

A third November incident involved another major hazard which is part and parcel of roofing work – scaffolding – and has led to hundreds of compensation claims over the years, and continues to result in penalties being issued.

Terrence Foster, of Scaffolding Systems South West, and his partner in the business, Shaun Greenslade, were fined for erecting unsafe scaffolding which crashed to the ground in strong winds.

It happened on March 25th 2009 when a large section of scaffolding erected by the firm at a builders’ merchants to allow re-roofing to take place at the premises fell away from the building, seriously damaging a number of parked cars.

HSE inspectors revealed that netting had been fixed to the scaffolding but extended almost a metre and a half above the roof of the building and was attached to the inside edge of the scaffold instead of the outside, effectively acting as a ‘sail’ to the prevailing wind, causing the scaffolding to collapse.

The investigation also found there were inadequate stability measures on the scaffold to withstand foreseeable wind speeds, such as scaffolding ties.

The result was that Mr Foster was fined GBP 8,000 and Mr Greenslade was fined GBP 5,000, with both ordered to pay costs of GBP 2,040, after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 28(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

These incidents highlight how shortcuts are still being taken by companies due to a combination of the urge to save time and money and ignorance of health and safety law, but until these issues are stamped out, people will continue to be injured and compensation claims made against the guilty parties.

Posted by Alison Spriggs

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The ongoing dangers of roof work
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