Skylights and plastic roof sheeting are essentially “glorified hidden holes” in the middle of your roof, if unprotected.
There have been numerous incidents this year where a worker has fallen through brittle roof sheeting or an unprotected skylight. In one particular incident, a 53-year-old sub-contractor lost his life after falling through polycarbonate roof sheeting. He was cleaning the roof gutters when he stepped onto the brittle roof sheeting which gave way, causing him to fall 3.5 meters onto a concrete pavement below.
Another incident occurred where a 27-year-old roofing contractor suffered a fractured back after falling 3.6 meters through roof sheeting. He was installing solar panels when the alsynite roof sheeting he was working on gave way.
Safe Work NSW recently released a incident report regarding the 10 separate skylight falls this year. The report outlines the MUST Dos in relation to managing the risks of brittle roof sheeting. Take action today before its to late. Read our latest fact sheet, where we address the major issues around these serious incidents and outline the key considerations you as a business owner should address.
Things to Consider
Skylights and plastic roof sheeting are exposed to environmental elements that impact the durability and integrity of the roof, so even plastic roof sheeting that are claimed to be trafficable can become brittle over time due to the exposure and need a thorough inspection.
Lack of training and knowledge
It is extremely important to stay up to date with your WAH training and industry knowledge. Appropriate height safety training should be given to younger workers who are more exposed due to their inexperience. They should be accompanied in their work by more knowledgeable team members whose duty it is to ensure that the work site has been assessed and that there is an adequate height safety system in place.
Failure to implement safety systems
Working at heights is classed as high risk and not providing effective equipment, systems and procedures to ensure safe access and fall protection for any work to be carried out on top of your buildings could be seen as negligent. The Victorian parliament has just past new man slaughter laws with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for individuals and a maximum fine of $16.5 million for companies who fail to implement safe environments for there employees.
Dirt and algal growth can make it hard to notice plastic sheeting, especially if it has the same profile as the surrounding sheeting. It is often not easy to tell at a glance where they are located and if they are properly protected.
Different roof sheeting profiles, surface changes, dirt, moisture and obstructions on roofs make it more likely that an operator will stumble and stray from their intended travel path. In this case both operators were unaware of the dangers, without a clear path across a roof it allows operators to create a path on there own and this can lead to serious outcomes.
“With 10 years height safety experience and working on roofs, before I allow workers on any roof I ensure the roof area’s are inspected and every single skylight is pointed out to all workers at the beginning of any work completed. Although this is a good idea, I have found in my experience workers can become task orientated and forget there are skylights altogether. Thus the simple solution to preventing falls altogether is to install aluminium mesh & walkways through high traffic areas and setting up guardrails around the raised or dome type skylights. Ensuring each worker gets home safely”
Garry White | Anchor Safe Recertification Manager