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Roofers at risk: Falls from height biggest cause of workplace deaths

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In Great Britain, on average 50 people are killed every year as a result of a fall from height, with almost 9,000 seriously injured. The roofing industry is one particular sector in which falls from height are prevalent.

In Oldham, shocking images emerged recently of two roofers balancing precariously on a house roof as one of them appeared in court to face prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Balancing act

53-year old Colin Howles was snapped by an HSE inspector as he and his employee replaced roof tiles. The court heard that no scaffolding had been erected at the back of the property to prevent either of the men falling almost six metres to the ground.

Mr Howles pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005; he was fined £350 and ordered to pay £600 costs.

HSE inspector Tom Merry said of the experienced roofer: “Not only did he risk his own life, he also risked the life of another worker by allowing extensive roof work to take place without scaffolding on both sides of the building. It is through sheer luck that neither he nor the other worker became one of the thousands of people who are killed or seriously injured in a workplace falls every year."

Landlord falls from roof: Roofer is to blame

And it’s not just roof workers who are at risk. Just last month in Leicester, a roof worker was fined after a landlord fell 3.5 metres to his death through a fragile roof light.

Mr Hall had asked Roofwise (UK) Ltd director Kristian Varnam to quote him for repairs to his roof. Mr Varnam climbed onto the roof but took no steps to ensure its safety before he did so. The roof was made from fragile asbestos cement sheets and plastic roof lights and when Mr Hall joined Mr Varnam on the roof, the plastic gave way and he fell. The HSE investigation found that Mr Varnam took no reasonable steps to ensure his or Mr Hall’s safety neither did he inform the tenants of the building that he would be climbing onto the roof, thus putting them in danger too.

HSE inspector Sam Russell said: "Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths, so it's crucial that employers and individuals make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures are put in place to protect staff and members of the public from the risks."

If you have been injured in a roofing accident, or have lost a loved one because of an incident involving unsafe roofing, Stephensons can help; our specialist lawyers have specific experience in fighting cases of this nature. For expert advice in complete confidence, call us on 01616 966 229.

By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney