Evidence of dangerous roof work


This is, sadly, not the first time that building safety lapses have been caught on camera – and given the explosion in smartphone use, we can expect the trend to increase. It all means that contractors – particularly those that work at height very visibly – need to take much better care of themselves and their workers: because they can be sure that their sins will find them out…

In this blatant case of health and safety abuse, a self-employed roofer called Ronald Steven King, 61, (known to colleagues as ‘Steve’), was working with two sub-contractors on the roof of a detached 4-bedroomed house in Brookside in the town of Kingsley, Cheshire.

He had a contract to replace the existing house roof, involving the removal of old slates, fitment of insulation, and laying new roofing.

Unsafe Work at Height

Although he had carried out the basic requirement of erecting a scaffolding tower, in a neighbour’s garden, the safety precautions were hopelessly incomplete:

  1. a large gap was left between the scaffolding and the roof in question
  2. no safety measures (like erecting scaffold boards) were provided along the roof edges to protect the workers from falls
  3. workers were forced to jump across a metre-wide gap to access the roof
  4. they were in danger of falling a distance of four-and-a-half metres to the ground

Fortunately a public-spirited person took a picture of the dangerous working (see it reproduced here) and alerted the HSE, who investigated. The inspectors found that work had been going on like this for a fortnight before their visit on 29th April 2013.

The result was an appearance for ‘Steve’ at Chester Magistrates’ Court where he was handed a fine of £3,000 and had additionally to pay £2,457 of the prosecution’s costs. He entered a guilty plea to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

HSE Inspector Kevin Jones’s comment was: “Mr King is an experienced roofer and had taken on a major project to re-roof a detached house but he failed to make sure basic safety measures were in place. He not only put his own life at risk but also the lives of two of the workers he employed by asking them to jump from the scaffolding to the roof, and by not providing protection around the edge of the roof. The risks from working at height are well known in the construction industry but Mr King ignored the dangers. If we hadn’t been alerted to the work by a member of the public, then I dread to think what might have happened.

it is easy for larger contractors to categorise such blatant lapses as being confined to small jobs, but no-one can afford not to be vigilant about working at height: it is from time to time wise to refresh one’s information by reading up the data here