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Fragile Roof Access

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Introduction to Fragile Roof Access

A fragile roof surface, or fragile elements in a roof, cannot always support the weight of a person and any materials they may be carrying. And so fracture without warning. Possibly causing a person to fall through the surface to a lower level. Fragile surfaces typically include Deterioration can also cause a surface, that used to be firm to have fragile elements in it.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights account for one-fifth of all height-related fatalities within the construction industry. With the installation of skylight and roof light protection covers, you eliminate the risk and ensure the safety and wellbeing of your maintenance staff, whilst they complete their servicing works upon the rooftop.

What are the risks of working on fragile surfaces?

Working at a height poses many risks in a huge range of industries. One of these risks comes from working at a height on fragile surfaces – for example, as part of a roofing job. In fact, almost a quarter of fatal falls from a height are a result of people falling through fragile surfaces.

Work on fragile surfaces is high risk and as a result the HSE requires that effective precautions are taken for all work on or near fragile surfaces, no matter how short the duration. Accidents can be avoided if suitable equipment is used and those carrying out the work are provided with adequate information, training and supervision.

Who is in danger?

Falls through fragile surfaces, particularly fibre-cement roofs and rooflights, account for 22% of all fall from height fatal injuries in the construction industry.

Workers undertaking roof work and building maintenance can die or be permanently disabled when they fall through fragile surfaces.

Those carrying out small, short-term maintenance and cleaning jobs are over-represented in the injury statistics.

Everyone involved in this type of work, including clients, designers and contractors, should treat falls through fragile surfaces as a priority hazard.

Which surfaces present a particular risk?

All roofs, once fixed, should be treated as fragile until a competent person has confirmed that they are non-fragile. In particular, the following are likely to be fragile:

  • Fibre-cement sheets – non-reinforced sheets irrespective of profile type;
  • Rooflights – particularly those in the roof plane that can be difficult to see in certain light conditions or when hidden by paint;
  • Liner panels – on built-up sheeted roofs;
  • Metal sheets – where corroded;
  • Glass – including wired glass;
  • Chipboard – or similar material where rotted; and
  • Others – including wood wool slabs, slates and tiles.

What you should do as a building owner or occupier

The law says that contractors and employers must manage the danger by avoiding work on or near fragile surfaces and controlling any remaining risk by use of staging, guard rails, and fall arrest systems.

Those at risk must be told what the necessary safety precautions are and people carrying out the work must be trained and instructed in the precautions required.

On business premises contractors should work closely with the client and agree arrangements for managing the work.

A competent organisation as Kee Systems can assess the roof using a safe system of work.

Different types of Fragile Roof Protection offered by Kee Systems

Kee Cover is a skylight fall protection system that provides protection for personnel accessing near fragile roof lights, whilst carrying out maintenance work or inspections on industrial roofs.

Falls through fragile skylights account for a high number of fatal falls from height.

Kee Cover is a robust modular system which prevents falls through skylights and roof lights without blocking out the light into the building. The cover is ideal for use on standing seam and trapezoidal roofs.

Fragile roof light and skylight covers for safe working at height

Valley Walk for gutter maintenance: Valley Walk is a mobile cage system for one or two people. The lightweight system has been designed for light maintenance work and is ideal for valley gutter maintenance, roof light access and maintenance and working on fragile asbestos rooftops.t


Temporary Fragile Roof Walkway Systems: Board-Walk open mesh walkway allows access to a roof from eaves to the ridge while spreading the load on support battens. This provides the worker with a safer working position. An integral full-length work positioning line provides added safety when using the platform.

safe roof working platform

What is a safe system of work?

Avoidance: Avoid workers having to go on the roof and try to find a method that let them to replace roof lights from underneath, using a suitable work platform.

Prevention: If workers cannot work from underneath but just from the topside of the roof, it should be used a mobile elevating work platform.

If working on a fragile roof is still needed, try to keep as safe as possible by using stagings, guardrails and fall arrest systems, as required.

According to the law, if inspectors encounter failure to control risk, work is prohibited, and prosecution may follow. HSE, case study, “Working on fragile roofs”.

Contact one of our roof expert and avoid to be prosecuted!