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Fragile roofs

Find out more about tackling the problem of falls through fragile surfaces and watch our film.

Fragile Roofs, Fragile Lives

Watch this video where four people share their experiences about the devastating effects falls through fragile roofs have had on themselves and their families.

This film was made by the CITB with the assistance of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)  and co-operation of Working Well Together (WWT)

CITB, HSE and WWT encourage all those involved in planning, managing and working on fragile roofs to watch and share this film.

Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights cause death and serious injury. They account for almost a fifth of all the fatal accidents which result from a fall from height in the construction industry.

Almost all of these fatalities arise from construction work in some form or another, although not always on what might be regarded as a construction site, much of which work is minor and short duration. These accidents usually happen while

  • Surveying the roof or inspecting roof work
  • Cleaning gutters and skylights
  • Installing equipment
  • Maintaining plant on the roof
  • Carrying out repairs to the roof, skylights or gutters
  • Re-roofing
  • Demolition

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

If you need to work on or access a fragile roof or surface, no matter how short the duration, you must plan and manage the work to ensure it’s done safely.

You must provide the right equipment to prevent falls and ensure those using it have the right skills and experience to work safely..

These steps should be followed when considering work on or near fragile roofs and surfaces:

  • Avoidance: Plan and organise work to keep people away from fragile surfaces so far as possible, e.g. by working from below the surface on a mobile elevating work platform or other suitable platform.
  • Control: Work on or near fragile surfaces requires a combination of stagings, guard rails, fall restraint, fall arrest and safety nets slung beneath and close to the roof.
  • Communication. Those carrying out the work must be trained, competent and instructed in use of the precautions required. Warning notices must be fixed on the approach to any fragile surface.
  • Co-operation: On business premises, contractors should work closely with the client and agree arrangements for managing the work.

View taster chapters from our health and safety course books:

  • GE700 Construction site safety – D02 Safe working at height 
  • GE706 Site supervision simplified – D24 Working at height
  • GT700 Toolbox talks – D02 fragile roofs 

To view the chapters:

  • Visit the Gateway to Online Learning and Development (GOLD)
  • Click on, ‘Login as a guest’ 
  • Click on the, 'Taster publications' link

Find out more

Visit the Health and Safety Executive site for more information on working at height and to download publications.