4 key steps to manage roof risks
WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert reminding businesses of their obligations to prevent injuries from falls from height, mainly if working on a roof.
The safety alert was prompted by a horticulture worker who was fatally injured when they fell through a brittle sky-light on the roof of a storage shed while undertaking maintenance tasks.
Risks with roofs
WorkSafe reminded businesses that particular risks are presented by:
- roof penetrations, such as vents or exhaust fans;
- sky-lights, or plastic or polycarbonate sheeting; and
- fragile or deteriorated roofing or support structure.
In particular, you should be aware that plastic or polycarbonate sheeting on a roof may increase the risk of internal falls even if new. Those sheets should not be walked or stood on unless assessed as safe by a competent person. Sheeting can also be hard to detect if aged and discoloured.
How to control the risk
You should take the following four important steps before work commences to manage the risks posed by roofs:
- Carry out an inspection to identify any internal fall hazards.
- Confirm the integrity of the roofing and roof structure.
- Plan the work to avoid the need to access unsafe areas.
- If unsafe areas cannot be avoided, ensure fall prevention devices are used, such as:
- guard railing around openings and fragile areas;
- engineered coverings across openings and fragile areas;
- warning signs highlighting the hazard;
- safety mesh; and
- an elevating work platform or scaffold, where possible.
Suppose it is not reasonably practicable to use a passive fall protection device. In that case, WorkSafe recommends that a work positioning system (travel-restraint system) or a fall arrest system is used, with adequately installed anchorage points.
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