Roofing contractor ignores own risk assessment


We have to write far too often about contractors that do not prepare risk assessments or write method statements. This is clearly culpable behaviour: yet here we have an almost equally bad case where a roofing firm did do the preparatory work (albeit perhaps not in a totally satisfactory way, in the eyes of the inspector) yet they then proceeded to ignore their own safety statements. A prosecution has resulted.

Inspector spots unsafe workers

On 26th September 2013, an HSE inspector happened to be at the Kelvin Way Trading Estate in West Bromwich. He was not deliberately inspecting the workers of GS Roofing Specialists LLP, but he was alarmed to spot them working on the fragile roof of a commercial building nearby. There was nothing to prevent them from falling, or any secondary safety measures to protect them or break their fall.

GS Roofing Specialists’ risk assessment and method statement specified that guard rails and netting were necessary.  But when work began these were not provided. The Inspector concerned (Gareth Langston) also determined that they should have considered using -

  • Boarding
  • Platforms
  • Roof coverings

This is covered clearly in the regulations, which set out that where it is not “reasonably practicable” to work safely without crossing or working on or around a fragile surface, the employer shall do two things:

  1. Provide platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar support or protection, and use them so that they deal with any foreseeable loading
  2. Minimise the distance of fall and its consequences, if a risk of a fall remains despite the primary safety measures

The Water Orton-based firm received a fine of £7,500 at Sandwell Magistrates’ Court and had to pay £1,090 of prosecution costs, having entered a guilty plea about a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 9(2).

Mr Langston commented: “GS Roofing Specialists LLP blatantly ignored the risk assessment’s advice for fall protection to be in place, leaving workers exposed to an unnecessary risk of a serious or even fatal injury. Working at height is a high-risk activity. There is a need to adequately plan for such work and ensure those plans are fully implemented and monitored effectively to ensure the safety of those involved.

His comments suggest that the risk assessment may have been carried out by independent health and safety consultants. If this was the case, it demonstrates the importance of following through to implementation, with the safety consultant continuing in an advisory role through the works phase. That is the sort of hands-on service that McCormack Benson Health & Safety offers, and which marks the firm out from the sort of safety consultancy that merely provides paper solutions. Ticking boxes and going through the motions means not taking construction health and safety seriously.