Deaths due to Falls and Collapses 2008-2017 (18% of all fatalities)

The HSA’s Fatal Accidents Chart

The major points of concern, regarding working from a height, are falling or collapsing. Falling from a height is a common cause of accidents involving farm buildings. Falls can occur from using ladders, through fragile roofing materials collapsing underneath or from unprotected edges of roofs or other structures.

Fatal and serious accidents often happen when roofs are being quickly repaired. According to the HSA, a total of 18% of all deaths across the agricultural industry are directly due to falls or collapses, with over half of these deaths (57%) within this figure resulting from falling from a height.

Fragile roof sheeting and skylights are heavily linked with these type of deaths. Weathered skylights become indistinguishable from other roofing material. Both skylights and glass, when painted over, are not recognisable as such and are highly dangerous.

The number one rule before working from a height is assessing the risks in order to prevent falls and fatalities. A farmer should avoid heights where possible, however, there are times when a farmer will be required to carry out work from a height. In this scenario, the HSA provides a risk assessment checklist which must be carried out before partaking in such activity.

  • Carrying out the work from underneath instead of at height has been assessed
  • The roof structure, strength and condition is known before work starts
  • All roofing materials are assessed before work starts and as work progresses
  • Rooflights which may have been obscured by paint are identified
  • Any repairs carried out in the past are identified, especially if fragile roof sheets have been used for ‘patching’ an otherwise non-fragile roof
  • Deterioration of supports and rusting of metal roof sheets is identified
  • Wood wool slabs which may have been weakened by water damage are identified
  • Power is isolated in any overhead electric cables close to the roof work
  • A safe system of work and necessary precautions are put in place before work starts
  • Only competent persons are involved with carrying out the work at height


  • Edge protection, fall protection including scaffolding and harnesses are inspected and used correctly
  • Safe means of access is provided via ladders, scaffolds and /or other equipment
  • Roof openings and fragile roof lights are identified and suitably covered or guarded
  • Roof is not overloaded and materials are secured
  • Properly designed roofing ladders and crawling boards are used on sloping roofs
  • Materials or equipment are not thrown or dropped from the roof
  • Unauthorised access to the roof is prevented
  • Work at height is only carried out when weather conditions do not pose a risk
  • Personal protective equipment is used, including non-slip footwear and safety harnesses
  • Emergency and rescue plans are in place

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