Repairing storm-damaged roofs should be done with ‘extreme caution in mind’

Repairing storm-damaged roofs should be carried out with “extreme caution in mind”, according to the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA).

As a result of the heavy snowfall in recent days, numerous stories have emerged where the roofs of sheds have collapsed under the weight of snow they were bearing.

This has resulted in increasing pressure on some farmers who may now have reduced shed space and farmland which is too wet to turn livestock out to.

After previous extreme weather events, there were a number of workplace fatalities that occurred due to falls from height, the HSA warned.

Commenting on the matter, it said: “Any work at height, such as repair of overhead lines or the roofs of farm buildings, should be undertaken with extreme caution in mind.

Repair of roofs should only be done after snow and ice has been cleared and a risk assessment has been carried out.

“All work at height must be properly planned and organised, the correct equipment should be used, and anyone working at height must be competent to do so.”

Between 2011 and 2015, 36 people lost their lives in Ireland while carrying out work at height – nine of which were in the agriculture sector. Many more have suffered serious injuries, with some of these injuries changing the victim’s life forever, the HSA explained.

Work other than very minor repairs is considered ‘construction work’ and the extensive legal requirements for construction work must be complied with, it added.

The principal risk when working at height is falls, either from ladders, through fragile roofing materials or from unprotected edges of roofs or other structures.

“In many cases, simple straightforward physical protection measures can prevent falls occurring – but, too often a lack of foresight and planning results in the necessary protection being neglected during this high-risk work.”

Fragile roof materials also pose a significant risk to those thinking of getting up on a shed’s roof.

Continuing, the HSA said: “Roof lights and perspex sheeting are a particular risk, because they can be very hard to identify due to weathering or as they may have been painted over. A high proportion of deaths are caused by falls through fragile roof covering.”

A list of advice and things to keep in mind when working at height is available for farmers to browse at their leisure on the HSA’s website.