Walking and working on a fragile roof


An active partner in a farming business was prosecuted when he and an employee fell through a fragile roof. The farmer and two of his employees were repairing a leaking roof on a cow shed. The men went up a ladder (not tied and with no handrails at the top) and along the roof. The workmen were told to walk on the sheet joints because there were trusses below. In the course of attaching new sheets, the farmer fell, then one of the employees. No handrails, edge protection, crawling boards or other means of preventing a fall had been provided.

The investigation of the accident indicated that a timber purlin, that had suffered decay as a result of water leaking and soaking through the roof, had probably fractured beneath some of the roof sheets.


The partner was prosecuted under:

  1. Section 3(1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and
  2. Regulation 13(1) of the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 for not having a system in place, or measures, to prevent a fall from a height.

The partner pleaded guilty and was fined £5,000 together with £1,318 towards the prosecution's costs


Steps should have been taken to provide a means of preventing or minimising falls. A combination of stagings and nets tied tight up to the roof is the safest method and a visual examination from the building floor for obvious distress or decay would have been reasonable. Further guidance is contained in HSE booklet INDG369 "Why fall for It?" - Preventing falls in agriculture".