A worker was repairing the gutter on a warehouse roof made of corrugated asbestos tiles. When he stepped off the gutter and onto the roof, the roof gave way. He fell 11 metres (35 feet) to the asphalt floor below and died of his injuries.
Corrugated asbestos tiles were once commonly used to roof industrial and commercial buildings. These tiles have a life expectancy of about 30 years. The warehouse was more than 40 years old, and its roof was in poor condition. The evidence indicates that the old roofing tiles had never been replaced.
Safe work practices:
- Conduct a risk assessment and address the identified risks before starting any roofing work. The risk assessment should include —
- Obtaining and reviewing original drawings for the building
- Obtaining and reviewing any available structural building surveys
- Determining the age and analyzing the composition of roofing materials
- Requesting information about potential hazards from the building’s owner
- Inform workers about the possibility of falling through an aging or deteriorated roof.
- Use a fall protection system when working 3 metres (10 feet) or more above grade and a written fall protection plan when workers could fall 7.5 metres (25 feet) or more and are not protected by permanent guardrails.
- In order to avoid walking directly on a roof, consider covering it with suitably secured plywood sheets (or similar materials) that are large enough to span the roof supports. Most asbestos roofing materials are not safe to walk on.
- Ensure that workers who might be exposed to hazardous building materials use the required personal protective equipment.
Workers can fall through roofs as well as off them. Assess the condition and composition of roofing materials before starting any roofing work.
WorkSafeBC has a wide range of health and safety information. For assistance and information on workplace health and safety, call toll-free within BC 1-888-621-SAFE (7233) or visit our web site at WorkSafeBC.com.