The dangers of working on roofs are well known. Too many workers are killed or seriously injured in incidents involving working on roofs every year.

The HSE stress that work at height requires adequate planning, organisation and communication between all parties.

But it seems three companies never got the message as they’ve been fined almost half a million pounds after a worker plunged 25ft from an unguarded roof he was replacing.

He hurt his head and back but luckily his injuries were not life-threatening.

The court heard workers were replacing a “fragile” old roof that potentially contained asbestos. The victim fell through the roof when asbestos sheeting gave way. There was no safety netting or other protective equipment to prevent the fall.

Proper safety measures needed

An investigation by the HSE found three firms at fault.

Ernest Doe & Sons had been asked to help replace a customer’s warehouse roof. But Ernest Doe was an agricultural and construction machinery supplier and not a building contractor. It subcontracted the work to Balsham Buildings. Balsham then planned how the roof should be replaced before subcontracting the actual work to Strong Clad.

With no experience, Ernest Doe was unable to really act as principal contractor. It couldn’t effectively oversee Balsham’s plans – which had identified the risk of a fall.

Only 40% of the roof had netting below. The HSE said the firms relied too much on verbal briefings reminding workers where netting was, rather than putting in place effective safety measures for the whole roof.

Sentence

Balsham (Buildings) Ltd admitted failing to properly plan how employees should work on roofs under the Work at Height Regulation 2005. It was fined £45,000 with £7,000 in costs.

Strong Clad Ltd also owned up to breaking the Work at Height Regulation 2005. It was fined £7,000 with £3,000 costs.

Principle contractor Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd admitted failing to plan, monitor or manage the work under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £360,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

The judge said Ernest Doe had overstretched itself and gone into an arena in which it had no experience. The companies were told there should have been more talk about how workers would carry out the work. Plans were described as “on the hoof” and “ad hoc”.

The judge added companies must understand they should only start work if confident they can do so safely.

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