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Protecting against the dangers of fragile industrial roofs

3 July 2019

Fragile roofs pose a serious risk to both life and limb throughout the UK, with nine people falling to their deaths each year.

Common on older or industrial buildings such as warehouses and factories, fragile roofs come in many different types, and it may not always be obvious that a roof is fragile at first glance.

More people fall through roofs than over the edge, making them one of the biggest dangers faced by those working at height, but many people are unaware of the hidden danger.

What is a fragile roof?

A roof is considered fragile if it is unable to take the weight of a person stepping onto it. The most common types of fragile roofs are:

  • Roof lights
  • Fibre cement sheets
  • Asbestos sheets
  • Corroded metal sheets
  • Glass (including wired glass)
  • Slates and tiles in poor condition

Roofs can become fragile over time due to natural wear and tear, or they might have been fragile from the start. Rooflights, for example, can become discoloured in the sun, rendering them near-invisible.

Roof panels can appear safe from a distance, but might collapse when they are stepped on.

Falls through fragile roofs usually involve workers falling through skylights or roof panels whilst repairing, maintaining or installing equipment.

What can I do?

There are a few things you can do to keep both yourself and your workers safe when accessing fragile roofs.

In the first instance, if you can avoid going onto the roof, do so. Your first priority, according to the work at height hierarchy, should be to carry out work from the ground or from an elevated work platform where possible.

Never step onto a fragile roof without carrying out a thorough risk assessment and selecting the appropriate control measures to either prevent falls or reduce the consequences should a fall occur.

If you are a client, make sure whoever you hire to do the work, whether it is a company or an individual, is experienced, fully trained and aware of the risks. If you do not feel a contracted company and its workers are competent, or you have not received proof of training and a method statement, stop work immediately.

You should always do your best to ensure that the correct safety equipment is in place when accessing the roof. Though standard permanent equipment such as guardrails and lifelines might not be ideal for fragile roofs, this does not mean you should forego safety equipment altogether.

The Kee Systems solution

Kee Systems supplies a range of fragile roof work equipment ideal for fragile industrial roofs, including temporary walkway systems and rolling roof platforms, which do not require penetration into the roof surface, making them perfect for fragile roofs.

Our Board-Walk system is a lightweight aluminium walkway which allows access from eaves to ridge whilst spreading the load on support battens, providing the user with a safe working position for tasks such as skin maintenance, inspection, cleaning or re-sealing work. 

Each 2m section can be linked together to form a full system across the length of the roof, and can be used either horizontally or vertically.

For roofs with valley gutters, we provide the Valley Walk system, a mobile walking frame for up to two users, designed to aid access along valley gutters whilst providing mobile roof cover. The system is easy to assemble and offers complete safety when working in a valley.

The cushioned outriggers are filled with a safety mesh and provide comfort alongside space to transport a light payload.

If you would like more information about our fragile industrial roof range, click here, or call us on 0208 874 6566.


Related links:

Dangers of the modern warehouse and how to avoid them

Kee Systems ensures rooflight safety for Porcelanosa