The doing so, stating that it is “something

The expected
standards for roof work of the nature carried out in this case study are
manifold, and very few seem to have been adhered to at Polybay Ltd., the
plastics recycling factory where this dangerous work was witnessed by an
Inspector for the Health and Safety Executive. Before any activity had started
on the roof, it should have been seen as paramount to first carry out a risk
assessment. ‘Working on Roofs’ stresses that “you should carry out a risk
assessment for all roof work,” as “all roof work is dangerous and it is
essential that you identify the risks before the work starts and that the
necessary equipment, appropriate precautions and systems of work are provided
and implemented.” Before the work at Polybay Ltd was even considered, a
detailed risk assessment should have been made. The HSE website makes it quite
clear of the importance of doing so, stating that it is “something you are
required by law to carry out”. The risks involved in replacing the damaged
sections of roofing should have been assessed thoroughly beforehand. The site
also makes clear in its introduction to carrying out risk assessments that only
if a company has fewer than five employees does it have no obligation to write
anything down. We know from this case that Polybay Ltd had “around fifty”
employees; therefore, a risk assessment was required by law.


In the Work at
Height Regulations of 2005 a “hierarchy for work at height” was established
which outlined the steps to follow when planning any sort of roof work. The
very first suggestion is that those planning any such work should “avoid work
at height when they can”, which highlights the many risks associated with roof
work. In this case, by opting to save costs by carrying out the work
‘in-house’, Polybay Ltd clearly disregarded this guidance.

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Another basic
standard measure involves the use of proper work equipment. The only equipment
used in this case was a single ladder, whereas the professional contractors
they had initially considered for the work would presumably have considered the
implementation of a number of tools. As outlined in ‘Working on Roofs’, these
differ according to the nature of the work and, specifically, the structure of
the roof in question. For example, the roof should first have been inspected,
using “a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), telescopic pole with camera
attachment or binoculars from a safe position on an adjacent building”. Without
first inspecting the roof in one of these ways, the two men carrying out the
work would not have known the state of the surface until they were on it, which
represents a major risk. That being said, without the appropriate knowledge,
skills, training and experience, the two men should not have been carrying out
the work at all.  


What’s more,  there were no precautions made to eliminate
the risk of a fall. Equipment that could have been implemented to mitigate this
risk include: nets, air or bean bags or a fall-arrest harness system; or ‘edge
protection’, which can be achieved by erecting guard rails around the edge, or
a platform from which to carry out the work. Likewise, there was great risk
involved to the Polybay employees as they were replacing damaged
asbestos-cement tiles from the roof. Had there been a gust of wind, anyone
carrying a roof sheet could easily have been blown from the roof. Equally, any
of the other forty or so employees passing at floor-level would have been put
at risk. Furthermore, although it is unclear from the study how they were
transporting the tiles from the roof to the ground below, from the picture it
suggests that they must either have been throwing them from height or carrying
them down on the ladder; each of which is hazardous. The HSE ‘Working on Roofs’
leaflet dictates that material should be “lowered to the ground in containers”
or “enclosed rubbish chutes” should be put in place.


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