The Safesite guide to fragile roofs: part one

By Jason Godfrey, Safesite General Manager

On average each year nine people fall to their deaths through roof lights or from fragile roofs. Scores more suffer serious, life-changing injuries.

Accidents like these usually happen on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings, with workers often falling through the roof whilst repairing, maintaining or installing equipment, cleaning gutters and skylights, or even while surveying the roof for work to be done.

Though these falls can often change, and even end, lives, they can be easily avoided by following competent guidance.

If you are responsible for roof repairs as the owner or occupier of a building, and think you may have a fragile roof, there are a few simple steps you can take to meet your responsibilities.


What constitutes a fragile roof?

A roof is considered fragile if it is not strong enough to support a person’s weight.  This includes:

– Old roof lights (sometimes painted)

– Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets

– Asbestos cement sheets

– Corroded metal sheets

– Glass (including wired glass)

– Slates and tiles in poor condition



Always assume that the roof is fragile unless you are certain it is not.


Don’t go on to a fragile roof yourself, or expect others to do so, without having a thorough risk assessment done and selecting the appropriate control measures to either prevent falls or reduce the consequences should a fall occur.


You don’t necessarily have to go out onto a roof for work like gutter cleaning, inspecting or surveying. These can often be done from ground level, or using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), or a tower scaffold. Short duration work can often be done using a secured ladder or one with a ‘stand-off’ device.


Don't be this person. ​Source: ​Google


Never walk along the line of fixing bolts above supports, or along the ridge. Would you walk along a tightrope?



What can happen if these simple steps are ignored?

A contractor died when a plastic roof panel on a car port he was working on gave way and he fell just two metres. The client, an estate agent, had failed to ensure that the work was planned and organised with the right equipment, or that the contractor knew how to do the work safely.

The client was prosecuted and fined £75,000 and had to pay over £11,000 costs.



Safesite has a range of products and services which are designed to protect people working at height on fragile roofs, or near fragile surfaces. Find out more here.

Click here to read Part Two of our Guide to Fragile Roof Safety

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