Falls through skylights and plastic roof sheeting

Safety Alert | 05/04/2018

This safety alert reminds persons of the risks associated with working on roofs with skylights or plastic roof sheeting, as well as the actions required to ensure those risks are eliminated or minimised.

BACKGROUND

In March 2018, one worker died and two others received serious injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries, after falling through a skylight or plastic roof sheeting.

These incidents demonstrate that it is not just exposed edges that create the risk of a fall when working on roofs.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Not all areas on a roof are safe to walk on or step or fall onto if you stumble or lose balance.

Even plastic sheeting that is claimed to be trafficable can become brittle over time and is highly reliant on correct installation to be trafficable.

When on existing roofs, dirt and algal growth can make it harder to notice plastic sheeting, especially if it has the same profile as the surrounding sheeting.

Roof sheeting profiles, surface changes, dirt, moisture and obstructions on roofs make it more likely that a person will stumble and deviate from their intended travel path.

ACTION REQUIRED

Before commencing work on an existing roof, carry out an inspection to determine:

  • the presence and condition of sky lights, plastic roof sheeting and other brittle roof sheeting such as asbestos cement sheeting
  • the presence and integrity of safety mesh.

Whether it’s an existing structure or one under construction, consider skylights and plastic roof sheeting as non-trafficable areas unless certified as trafficable. Even then, ensure that the installation has been checked and proven to comply with trafficable installation instructions. Note: cut down sheets may need additional fixings and even a missing screw can make a sheet non-trafficable.

Where non-trafficable, provide appropriate fall prevention/protection measures and develop work methods to prevent people from stepping or falling onto non-trafficable surfaces.

To ensure the necessary control measures are being applied as the work progresses, an ongoing review of the work should also be carried out.

MEASURES FOR CONTROLLING THE RISK

Control measures to prevent a person from falling through a fragile roof or skylight include, but are not limited to:

  • plan the work to avoid accessing non-trafficable areas
  • work from a solid construction to avoid standing on the roof itself
  • install temporary work platforms (crawling boards) and roof ladders as appropriate
  • install barriers, such as guard rails or covers, that are secured and labelled with warning signs
  • install safety mesh
  • install a fall arrest system (harness) which has adequately-installed anchorage points, along with training and instruction in the use.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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Email
contact@safework.nsw.gov.au
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