Falls through roofs (4 August 2020)
Since the start of this year, we've been notified of 10 incidents where a worker has fallen through a roof, resulting in either a serious injury or fatality.
Falls from heights continues to be a major cause of fatalities and serious injuries at workplaces across NSW.
A 52-year-old subcontractor fell more than three metres onto a concrete pavement at a school in Wahroonga. He was cleaning the roof gutters when he stepped onto polycarbonate roof sheeting and it gave way. He suffered severe head injuries and passed away in hospital.
A 21-year-old apprentice carpenter fell through perspex roof sheeting at a manufacturing plant in Molong, in western NSW. He fell seven metres onto a concrete floor, fracturing his wrist, ribs and pelvis.
Molong manufacturing plant
A 27-year-old roofing contractor fell more than three metres through the roof of a sheering shed at a rural property near Parkes. He was installing solar panels when the alsynite roof sheeting gave way. He fractured his back.
Roof of shearing shed
Not all areas on a roof are safe to walk on. Even roof sheeting that claims to be okay to walk on is reliant on correct installation and can become brittle over time. Don’t walk on skylights, or plastic and asbestos roof sheeting, unless assessed as structurally sound by a competent person.
Consider what tasks can be done without accessing the roof. For example, work from underneath using a scaffold or elevated work platform.
If you must access the roof, check its condition, the roofing materials, fixings and safety mesh to determine the safest path.
If sheeting appears brittle, you must manage the risks of falling through the roof.
- install guardrails around non-trafficable areas, or use a work positioning system
- cover non-trafficable sheeting securely and place warning signs nearby
- work from temporary work platforms (crawling boards) or roof ladders, where appropriate
- install safety mesh
- use an adjustable fall-arrest system, such as a harness, with proper anchor points, and train workers in how to use them
- prepare a site-specific safe work method statement (SWMS) for all high risk construction work
- have plans in place in case of emergency, particularly with respect to the use of fall arrest systems.