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The danger of fragile roofs

Posted 18th Apr


Each year nine people on average fall to their death through roof lights or fragile roofs. Even more suffer serious, life-changing injuries.

Accidents usually happen on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings, with workers falling through the roof whilst repairing, maintaining or installing equipment, cleaning gutters and skylights, and even while surveying the roof for work to be done.


These falls change, and often end, lives. However, the good news is they can be avoided by following competent guidance.


Firstly, let’s look at what constitutes a fragile roof. A roof is considered fragile if it is not strong enough to hold a person’s weight. For example:


  • Old roof lights (sometimes painted)

  • Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets

  • Asbestos cement sheets

  • Corroded metal sheets

  • Glass (including wired glass)

  • Slates and tiles in poor condition


If you are responsible for roof repairs as the owner or occupier of a building, and think you may have a fragile roof, there are a few simple steps you can take to meet your responsibilities:


  • Always assume the roof is fragile unless you are certain it is not

  • Don’t go on to a fragile roof yourself, or expect others to do so, without having a thorough risk assessment done and selecting the appropriate control measures to either prevent falls or reduce the consequences should a fall occur

  • You don’t necessarily have to go out onto a roof for work like gutter cleaning, inspecting or surveying. These can often be done from ground level, or using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), or a tower scaffold. Short duration work can often be done using a secured ladder or one with a ‘stand-off’ device

  • Never walk along the line of fixing bolts above supports, or along the ridge


In 2015 a contractor died when a plastic roof panel on a car port he was working on gave way and he fell just two metres. The client, an estate agent, had failed to ensure that the work was planned and organised with the right equipment, or that the contractor knew how to do the work safely.


The client was prosecuted and fined £75,000 and had to pay over £11,000 costs.

Steadfast Anglia has a range of products and services which are designed to protect people working at height on fragile roofs, or near fragile surfaces. To enquire about a product or project, call us on 01473834144 or use our contact form.


by Carolyn Campbell