Every year nine people on average fall to their deaths from fragile roofs or through roof lights. Many more suffer serious, life-changing injuries.
Falls through fragile roofs or materials usually occur on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings where workers are carrying out repairs, maintaining or installing equipment, cleaning gutters and skylights, or whilst carrying out general roof work. All these accidents are fully avoidable through careful planning and ensuring safe working procedures.
What is a fragile surface?
Work on fragile surfaces is high risk, and as a result, the HSE requires that effective precautions are taken for any form of work on or near fragile surfaces. Accidents can be avoided as long as suitable equipment is used and those carrying out the work are provided with adequate information, training and supervision.
Access onto a roof is often required for maintenance, inspection, cleaning or general repairs. Fragile surfaces such as the ones we are reading about are typically found on factories and warehouses and can include:
·Roof lights and skylights
·Corroded metal sheets
·Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets
·Roof slates and tiles
·Glass such as wired glass
How to tread carefully
The principles of working on fragile surfaces are exactly the same as any other form of work at height, so if you apply the hierarchy of control you should be able to ensure that the work can be carried out safely.
In an ideal world, the preferred option is to avoid working at height, but as we all know this isn’t always possible, so the next consideration would be to look at methods which would allow work to be carried out without actually stepping onto the roof itself, such as MEWPs.
If access onto the fragile roof cannot be overcome then you will need to look at how the area can be accessed safely and then put into place measures that can alleviate the distance and consequences of a potential fall.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as protecting the edge of the roof with guardrail, using staging or platforms with edge protection on the roof to spread the load or by protecting fragile roof lights and skylights with a cover to prevent access onto the surface itself.
When access is needed to run from the eaves to the ridge, mesh walkways could be used to spread the weight across the support battens so that workers can safely move along the full length of the systems.
Lightweight mobile walking frames on the other hand are ideal for maintenance of valleys and box gutters on fragile roofs and can provide safe access for up to two people.
A responsible approach
Falls through fragile surfaces account for nearly a fifth of all fatalities as a result of a fall from height in the construction industry. The worker in the case I highlighted at the start of this post was lucky in that he survived. However he did suffer serious injuries to his back and sternum and wore a full body brace for six weeks following the incident.
Companies have a legal duty to ensure they have done all they can to prevent accidents and with the range of products available today, particularly for working on fragile materials, there really is no reason for these accidents to still be happening.
With the arrival of spring, and winter firmly behind us, now is the time for business owners and landlords to take a look at the roofs of their premises to see what damage the colder months left in their wake.
Whether you are a contractor or the owner of the premises, it is important you know the best way to safely inspect and maintain a building, to ensure the safety of yourself and any contractors in your care.
Planned maintenance can include both plant and equipment as well as repairs to the roof itself, dependent on the type of roof.
If you follow these top tips, you’ll be able to ensure you avoid any issues, such as serious injury or worse, when carrying out spring maintenance.
1. It doesn’t matter what height you’re working at, work at height is by nature dangerous, even more so in the months after winter, when all manner of horrible damage can be hiding away. When possible, try to avoid having to work at height, if this isn’t possible then look at alternative ways to do the work. For example, if cleaning windows, use a reach and wash system rather than a ladder. if you absolutely have to use a ladder then always take advantage of the Easi-Dec Ladder accessories range to provide further support.
2. Make sure that you always carry out a risk assessment before starting the work to determine what equipment you will need and to identify who could potentially be in danger or be affected by your work. Is there the possibility that someone could be hit by falling objects?
3. When using a ladder, carry out pre-use checks to identify any defects or damages which could prevent safe use. Areas to inspect include the stiles, feet, rungs, steps/treads, platform and locking mechanisms. Make sure the ladder is long enough or high enough for the specific task. Make sure the ground is firm and level and clear of any debris.
4. Always make sure that the user is competent to carry out the work. Competency is essential. Only those who are fully trained in working at height and using equipment such as ladders safely will have the correct skills, knowledge and experience to work safely.
5. And perhaps most importantly of all, always plan the work carefully. This is even more vital after the winter months when there could be hidden risks.
Working at height can be dangerous at the best of times, so remember, if you are not sure about anything or do not believe you are competent or capable of carrying out the task at hand, always seek professional advice.
Good to know: Easi-Dec offers many different products and systems to make working at height all year round safer and more efficient.
If there is one thing especially remarkable in Scotland, that is its historical buildings, still retaining their original charm. The best evidence of this is the Renfrew Town Hall and Museum: a heritage building full of history that doesn’t go unnoticed for anyone visiting the area.
Renfrew is a small Scottish town located 6 miles west of Glasgow, in a strategic area of Scotland, being therefore the scene of numerous military confrontations. That’s why its architecture oozes centuries of history.
Located downtown Renfrew, it is a truly architectural jewel, an impressive 19th-century building dominating the Renfrew skyline with its fairytale towers. The highest one rises to more than 100 feet and has become a symbol of the civic pride evident in town during its industrial heyday.
However, this is not the original Town Hall of Renfrew. The first one was originally built in 1670, and was used as a jail until 1839. The current Town Hall was built in 1872.
After a £5.2m refurbishment programme, the building reopened in January 2012, having been fully restored and extended to house the new Renfrew Museum. As part of this renovation programme, the Renfrew Town Hall roof has been recently renewed with Heavy 3 natural slate. This slate has been the perfect choice to keep its original appeal of Scottish tradition and heritage.
CUPA HEAVY 3™ slate is quarried from San Pedro de Trones in northern Spain. This quarry belonging to multinational company CUPA PIZARRAS, has been in operation since 1892. Actually it’s the oldest quarry in activity in the world and produces some 25,000 tons each year!
Heavy 3 is one of the key products of CUPA PIZARRAS, the world leader in natural slate. It’s a blue-black slate with a slightly gritty texture, perfect to withstand the high wind speeds and driving rain common throughout Scotland.
Redland – the UK’s leading manufacturer and supplier of pitched roof systems – has announced that it is to build a new manufacturing line for its plain-tile appearance product, DuoPlain, and large-format concrete tiles and slates. The multimillion-pound investment will help secure supply of these products into a UK market that is currently experiencing huge demand and extensive lead times.
The new line, which will come on stream later this year, will be located at the company’s Shawell plant, its most centrally located facility. Work on the installation is underway, and a number of new skilled jobs will be created when production commences.
Commenting on the announcement, Georg Harrasser, CEO of the Braas Monier Building Group, Redland’s parent, said: “This is a significant investment at an important time in the UK housebuilding industry. The new line gives us not only increased capacity, but also increased flexibility, improving our ability to meet the growing UK market demands for specific roof tile formats. This flexibility will be welcomed by the market as a whole, which is experiencing long lead times for these high-growth products”.
Andy Dennis, Country Manager UK & Ireland, added: “The drive to build more homes, fueled by Government targets and a generally buoyant housing market, has put enormous pressure on manufacturers like ourselves. The UK’s ability to build more homes is restricted by the availability of roof tiles and other construction materials. Demand currently outstrips supply, especially for large-format and plain-appearance tiles, which housebuilders have been increasingly adopting as their preferred formats”.
He continues: “The new line at Shawell demonstrates not only a commitment to our customers and the industry, but also shows the confidence that the Braas Monier Building Group has in Redland. We will, as a result of this investment, be better placed to meet the challenges faced by the UK housebuilding industry”.
A Crown Court case which saw three companies fined a total of £400,000 for a worker’s fall through a fragile roof has highlighted the importance of following Construction (Design and Management) regulations, and the need to ensure competence of all contractors working at height.
Three firms have been fined after a worker fell seven metres through a fragile asbestos roof.
The worker was standing on the fragile roof at Dengie Crops Ltd in Asheldem when the asbestos sheeting gave way and he fell onto a concrete floor, hitting several pipes on the way down.
No protective equipment or safety netting was in place below to prevent the fall and the worker suffered a hematoma on the brain as a result. He survived, but was left with severe injuries.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard the Health and Safety Executive found three companies at fault for the fall. Dengie Crops Ltd had originally contracted Ernest Doe & Sons – an agricultural machinery supplier – to carry out the work. Realising they did not have the required experience, Ernest Doe & Sons then subcontracted the work the Balsham (Buildings) Ltd.
Balsham then subcontracted the work to Strong Clad Ltd.
The court was told Ernest Doe & Sons could not fulfill their role as principal contractor due to having no experience in construction. This then led to the repeated subcontracting of the project and eventually to the worker’s severe injury.
Ernest Doe & Sons also did not see plans from Balsham (Building) Ltd which highlighted the fall risk. None of the companies were deemed to have put sufficient measures in place, and 40% of the roof had no protective netting. They also relied too heavily on verbal briefings to workers reminding them where the netting was, rather than putting effective safety measures across the entire roof.
Ernest Doe & sons Ltd, of Ulting, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching CDM Regulations and were fined £360,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
Balsham (Buildings) Ltd, of Balsham, Cambridge, pleaded guilty to safety breaches and were fined £45,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,000.
Strong Clad Ltd, of Castle Hedingham, Essex also pleaded guilty and were fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000.
HSE inspector Adam Hills said: “The dangers of working on fragile roofs are well documented. Every year too many people are killed or seriously injured due to falls from height while carrying out this work.
“Work at height requires adequate planning, organisation and communication between all parties. This incident was entirely preventable and the worker is lucky to be alive.”
New Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) regulations, designed to reduce accidents during construction projects through improved health and safety, design, planning and co-operation throughout the project, were introduced in April 2015.
The regulations, which supersede previous CDM regulations introduced in 2007, identify six core roles: Clients, Principal Designers, Designers, Principal Contractors, Contractors and Workers.
Under these new regulations clients are required to take responsibility and ensure that each phase of the construction process is planned so that it can be managed safely.
Clients now have a duty to:
assemble a team of competent professionals and ensure that each of their roles are clear
allocate sufficient time and resources at each stage of the project to ensure that health and safety issues are dealt with properly
ensure effective project team communication
provide suitable welfare facilities throughout the construction period
make sure all involved have the skills, training and expertise to carry out the work
With the repeated passing along of the Dengie Crops Ltd project, several of these vital requirements were overlooked.
The importance of competency
When employing someone to work at height, it is vital to ensure that they are competent. But what exactly is competency, and how can you tell? It’s important to know that just because somebody has been doing a job for a number of years, this does not automatically mean they are competent.
The HSE defines competency as: “a combination of the experience, knowledge and appropriate qualifications that enables a worker to identify both the risks arising from a situation and the measures needed to deal with them.”
It also states that: “Individuals working at height need to be trained in the selected system of work and any particular work equipment chosen. For example, if a Motorised Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) is selected then the operator must be trained in its use; if nets are used then the net riggers must be trained in how to erect them safely. Managers should check that those doing the work are adequately trained.”
Working at height is highly specialist, and it is hugely important to ensure you commission a competent company and worker to assess all risk and carry out any work safely. Do not automatically assume someone is capable because they’ve never had an accident; more often than not, this is down to dumb luck.
Look for companies that are members of associations/institutes or affiliated to recognised industry bodies. The company will be kept up to date regularly by the association or group on important industry topics and updated on changes to legislation and standards that relate to their line of business, particularly their services and products.
Check that the company is registered with a recognised assessment scheme such as CHAS, Constructionline and/or SAFEcontractor. Every aspect of a registered company’s performance is vetted, including staff professionalism, training, products and services, environmental impact and health & safety record.
Ensure workers have had individual training. Always make sure that those carrying out the work have appropriate health & safety training and that it is up to date. This could include training on Work at Height, PPE, Ladders, Rescue, MEWPS, PASMA, First Aid, Asbestos Awareness, COSHH and Risk Assessor. Refresher training should be undertaken at least every 3 years.
Always ask to see evidence of training certificates and any relevant industry card schemes such as CSCS or CCNSG before allowing people to work on your premises.
Remember, if at any point you are concerned about competency or a contractor’s practices, do not proceed, and instead seek professional advice. It may take a little bit more time and effort, but it can save you from serious fines and even prosecution in the long run.
Sussex-based Big Foot Systems, which leads the way in non-penetrative rooftop support solutions for building services and safe access equipment, is delighted to announce that is has been shortlisted in the prestigious H&V News Awards for its project with Coca-Cola European Partners Great Britain (CCEP GB). Named as a finalist in the ‘Retrofit Project of the Year’ category, Big Foot supplied a custom Safe Access solution and HD Beams rooftop plant support to a project at CCEP GB’s Wakefield manufacturing plant.
The H&V News Awards’ judges reported that they received a high number and quality of entries this year and so making it onto the shortlist is a fantastic achievement. Big Foot Systems will now present their entry directly to the judges in March. The winners will then be announced at the esteemed H&V News Awards on Thursday 20th April 2017 at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London.
“We are thrilled to have been shortlisted in such prestigious awards on such a high profile project. It was a complex project at what is the largest soft drinks manufacturing plant, by volume, in Europe” explains Sam Birch, Big Foot Systems’ Product Manager. “We were able to provided the preferred solution whilst ensuring minimal disruption to the Wakefield manufacturing plant.”
CCEP GB wanted to increase the production hall cooling ventilation capacity by adding two new air handling units to the existing lightweight standing seam roof. The project needed to ensure minimal disruption to operations during the new installation and reduce the risk of a leaking roof above a facility capable of producing 6,000 cans of soft drink and up to 2,200 bottles every minute.
Having previously worked with Big Foot Systems, the CCEP GB consultant on the project suggested the possibility of using Big Foot to provide a plant and service support strategy which would eliminate the need to penetrate the roof.
The lightweight roof construction posed an additional challenge for the project, but one that Big Foot Solutions met. The Big Foot technical team worked collaboratively with HE Barnes, the contractor for the project, and their structural engineer across many months. Big Foot’s technical team was able to propose several options for consideration, leading to a fully-developed solution using their HD Beam product to span the main rafters and the purlins, while taking the load back to the main rafters. The solution also provided safe access for maintenance of the newly installed AHUs.
To assist the smooth installation, Big Foot’s Technical Team carried out several site surveys. The engineered design and technical support by Big Foot allowed HE Barnes to provide a detailed lifting plan and method statement to the CCEP GB Health and Safety team. Big Foot’s Technical Team was also on site for the frame erection and AHU crane lift to the roof, utilising a 250 tonne crane with a 60-metre reach. Thanks to meticulous planning and preparation, the full installation was carried out seamlessly within five hours of the crane being set up. Big Foot therefore provided the best solution with minimal disruption to CCEP GB’s Wakefield manufacturing plant.
An HD Beam is a non-penetrative support frame for chillers, AHUs, packaged plant, generators, pipes and steels. It is a robust but flexible solution where space may be limited, or there is a requirement to position directly over existing structural roof steels. Weight is then evenly distributed across the specified quantity of HD Beams. It is also height adjustable to maintain a level system on roof falls up to 5 degrees.
The Big Foot Safe Access range is designed to allow a secure route for service engineers and other trades to gain access to plant and for managing the flow of other personnel. Offering secure and easy access to roof-top services, Big Foot will survey and design custom Safe Access systems tailored specifically to meet individual design parameters.
Offering specifiers a comprehensive range of freestanding systems, Big Foot’s products are designed and manufactured by the company for a wide variety of applications, including HVAC, solar units and safe access equipment. The product portfolio provides complete, simple, safe and secure non-penetrative, prefabricated roof support systems negating a need for time consuming and costly penetrations through the roof.
Big Foot Systems’ products and systems are quick and easy to install ensuring project cost and time clarity, thus reducing the need for complex, time-consuming and expensive detailing. Offering improved roof aesthetics, Big Foot Systems provides engineered solutions that are innovative in design, robust and repeatable. Big Foot combines market leading products and services, which include system design and on-site support. Available to install in all weathers utilising familiar componentry, all systems are designed with safety, security and simplicity in mind. Finally Big Foot Systems offers short manufacture and delivery lead times to help a project meet its schedule and stay within budget.
For further information on all products and services offered by Big Foot Systems email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01323 844355.
The flexibility, aesthetically pleasing and easy to install attributes of Cembrit Jutland fibre cement slates have been illustrated on a newly built apartment block in Poole, as the slates have provided a stunning finish to what was a challenging roof.
Inverclyde House is a newly built three storey development that consists of 18 two and three bedroom flats. Located on the south coast of England in Poole, the apartments are central to schools, hospitals and the town centre.
Bournemouth-based contractor, AST Roofing installed 7,000 600x300mm blue/black Cembrit Jutland fibre cement slates, covering approximately 450m2. The roof on this project was interesting, yet challenging for the contractor, as it included a number of pitches and a turret. This unique roof demanded a high quality roofing product that would be easy to handle, install and wouldn’t require any sorting or grading.
“The roof design posed a major challenge, but we were confident that our choice in product would allow us to deliver the desired result,” says Paul Stevens, Managing Director of AST Roofing. “We had to take great care in achieving a neat mitred hip detail, and Cembrit Jutland slates allowed us to do so. The consistency in quality with these slates was impressive. Not only does it mean that the product is easy to work with, but it provides a smooth finish that can’t be achieved with other roofing materials.”
Jutland slates feature a smooth surface and are pre-holed, square edged and lightweight. They do not need to be graded and sorted like natural slates. These qualities combine to make them easy to handle and install and an ideal solution for a fast-track construction environment. Jutland slates are available in Graphite, Blue/Black, Russet and Autumn Brown colours.
Jutland slates are manufactured to the highest European standards using Portland cement together with a formulation of superior blended synthetic and cellulose fibres. Cembrit fibre cement slates are finished with a high quality, semi-matt acrylic coloured coating to the face and edges and a tinted, high-performance binder to the back face. The slates are manufactured in accordance with a quality assurance system to ISO 9001 and to the requirements of BS EN 492:2012 product specification for fibre cement slates and their fittings. Jutland slates have been awarded the BBA Certificate No. 03/4041.
Cembrit A/A+- rated fibre cement slates can contribute to achieving an environmentally outstanding building. The five variations (Jutland, Zeeland, Westerland, Moorland and Diamond) allow designers to achieve the highest ratings for roof specifications and are currently the only fibre cement slate certificated.
KEMPER SYSTEM manufacture KEMPEROL® liquid roofing and waterproofing systems for the long-term protection of roofs buildings and critical structures. At Ecobuild 2017, our roofing products continue to address the question: What is sustainability?
When we talk about roofing systems, their relative merits and sustainability, we need to understand what sustainability means:
The capacity to endure, with the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources and thereby supporting long term ecological balance.
So how do we fit the bill?
80% of the resins in KEMPEROL® 2K-PUR are derived from the seeds of the tropical castor plant (ricinus communis) a sustainable resource that for every kilogram of castor oil produced in place of a petroleum-based polyol, there is a reduction of nearly 3.5 kilograms of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. A cradle-to-gate study commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE) reported that there are essentially zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the production of castor oil. Added to that the reinforcement fleece we use contains a 25% recycled plastic bottle content. Kemper System is fully committed to the conservation of natural resources and are part of the chemical industry’s unique global initiative – ‘Responsible Care’.
Substrate conservation is a key element in sustainability. When our approved contractors carry out refurbishment work or upgrade the insulation on an existing roof, the KEMPEROL® resin is usually laid directly onto the substrate or utilises the failed membrane as a vapour control layer as part of our Stratex warm roof system build up. This avoids the costly removal of the failed roof substrate and transport off site to become landfill. This can also have the added benefit of reducing the duration and cost of your project.
None of the above would mean anything without great performance. KEMPEROL® 2K-PUR is not only solvent-free and odourless, it has proven performance in use with a BBA certified performance life in-excess-of 25 years. It is also inherently root resistant making it ideal for green roof projects.
Responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly in application and long term performance; produced by a company that conforms to recognised environmental standards. What more could you want from a roofing product?
You can learn more about our waterproofing, warm roof and green roof systems on Stand B141. We’re the one with the Duck.
Article by Terry Creed, Technical Sales Consultant, Safesite Ltd
We’ve written in the past about the importance of competency, especially when it comes to fall protection equipment. I spend a lot of time on roofs and unfortunately come across some shocking work which illustrates what happens when price is chosen over competency.
The following are the latest batch of horrors I’ve seen when out and about on site.
This system is installed so poorly it’s quite unbelievable that someone could leave it that way! The guardrail is too low, weights and feet are in the wrong position, extremely unstable, grub screws loose or missing, uneven…I could go on…..
Poor guardrail installation – no mid rail, a fitting is missing completely and the hot vent flue has damaged the rail. And when you look at the installation from the other side, it gets worse. The photograph below shows that single fixing has been used into the masonry.
This is definitely not something we would recommend as the fixings can work loose over time.
Waterproofing specialist, Kemper System, has provided the roofing solution for a hot and humid environment in the heart of leafy Cheshire at Chester Zoo’s £40m ‘Islands’ development.
The company’s solvent-free Kemperol 2K-PUR cold liquid-applied waterproofing membrane has been used for the roof of the ‘Tree House’, which will form a covered walkway for visitors under a giant polymer dome – called Monsoon Forest.
Designed by Dan Pearlman, the exhibit forms part of the largest zoo development in UK history,Islands, comprising six South East Asian island environments which visitors can explore on foot or by boat to discover native plants and wildlife from the region.
Within Islands is Monsoon Forest which will be home to numerous species including Sulawesi macaques and orangutans, and the tree house – which mimics a field research centre – will enable visitors to walk through the enclosure along a raised walkway.
Roofing contractor, K. Pendlebury Roofing, met with the client at the zoo to discuss specification for the job, which had to take into account the habitat’s changing climate, the water mist that is used to create humidity and, the behaviour of the animals.
Explains Neilan Symondson from K. Pendlebury Roofing: “There is adjacent netting along the side of the tree house roof and the orangutans can move freely within their enclosure, which means that they could throw things onto the roof, pick at the surface with their fingers or even urinate on it.
“Kemperol 2K-PUR provided a robust, flexible solution that will not crack or soften at high temperatures and will provide excellent resistance to humidity, puncturing and uric acid; and roughly 80% of the resins in the Kemperol 2K-PUR are obtained from the seeds of the tropical castor plant which is a renewable resource.”
The walkway with its shaped surfaces and the high temperatures proved challenging whilst working on the project. K. Pendlebury Roofing taped the seams of the 200m2 plywood surface to prevent any resin from seeping through the joints during the application process.
Following application of a primer mixed with quartz sand to provide a key, the cold-liquid Kemperol 2K-PUR resin was then applied directly onto the roof. The installation team then laid Kemper System’s 165gsm flexible reinforcement fleece, which is cut to size and shape on site, directly into the wet resin, using rollers to remove any creases or air bubbles before immediately applying more resin to fully saturate the fleece. The system was applied in a single wet-on-wet process and allowed to cure, providing a seamless, monolithic membrane that bonds directly to the substrate, which is permanently elastic and cannot delaminate.
“Kemperol 2K-PUR is an environmentally responsible waterproofing solution that helps us deliver that remit while ensuring a safe and durable environment for both visitors and the orangutans.”