Accident Advisory: Worker fell through roof insulation

28 Nov 2018

Ref No.: 281118 (1)
UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker fell through roof insulation

Ref: 1819055 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 31 October 2018

On 19 October 2018 around 3.30pm, a worker was working on the roof of a workshop under construction when he stepped onto the insulation layer and fell through it. The fall distance to the ground was about 13.9 metres. The worker was pronounced dead at the scene by attending paramedics. Preliminary investigation showed that the worker’s safety harness was not anchored.


Persons in control of similar workplaces and work activities, such as occupiers, principals and employers, are advised to consider the following risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Fragile Surface Identification

  • Identify and clearly mark all fragile surfaces (e.g. roof insulation and roofing sheets) prior to work commencement. The owner and/or occupier (of a building) and the principal and/or employer (of an ongoing work activity e.g. at a building under construction) may be able to assist in the identification of fragile surfaces.
  • Place warning signs at access points and directly on fragile materials to indicate the presence of fragile material in the work area. These signs must be clearly visible to persons accessing the work area so that they are aware of the hazards in the vicinity and are able to easily differentiate them from other surrounding walkable material.

Safe Work on Fragile Surfaces

  • Work on fragile surfaces using suitable work platforms (e.g. tower scaffold). Alternatively, consider using a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) that allows work from within the MEWP basket without stepping onto the fragile surface.
  • If access onto the fragile surface cannot be avoided, use a work platform that is located and specially constructed to allow the work to be performed safely. Work platforms such as crawl boards can be used to enhance worker safety for work on fragile or brittle roofs.
  • Carry out proper work planning to minimise exposure to any risk that may arise from working on or around fragile surfaces. In particular, the deployment of a travel restraint system to restrict work movement within safe areas will help to prevent exposure to the risk of falling through a fragile surface.

Fall Prevention Plan

  • Establish a fall prevention plan (FPP) to manage fall from heights hazards, including work on roofs. The FPP should include, but not limited to:
    • summary of site-specific hazards and their corresponding risk control(s);
    • safe work procedure (SWP) and/ or method statement;
    • permit-to-work system; and
    • provision of fall prevention and protection equipment.Refer to the Code of Practice for Working Safely at Heights for more information on FPP.

Fall Protection System

  • Implement fall protection systems and ensure its use by workers who are required to carry out work at heights (including work on roofs and work on or around fragile surfaces) and especially when working near the edge of a building with no edge protection.
  • A personal fall arrest system consists of a full body harness connected to an anchorage point or anchorage system by means of a lanyard or self-retracting line. The body harness must be attached to a lanyard that is anchored to ensure effective protection from falls (see Figure 2).

Instructions, Training and Supervision

  • Communicate the specific locations of fragile surfaces to all workers (including contractors). Advise workers never to step on a fragile surface.
  • Confirm that all workers working on or around fragile surfaces have received adequate training on work at heights and proper use of the travel restraint/ personal fall arrest system. Safe work instructions should include, but not limited to, locations of secure anchorage points, safe loading capacity and methods for proper deployment of fall protection systems.
  • Provide on-site supervision for all roof work activities. This is to ensure that SWPs are adhered to at all times and fall prevention measures are implemented effectively

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to manage any foreseeable risk that may arise during working on roofs. The RA should address, but not limited to:

Fragile surfaces

  • Fragile walking/working surfaces pose fall-in or fall-through hazards. In particular, roof sheets and roofing insulation must be identified and assessed by competent personnel to be safe before any work is allowed to be performed on or near them.

Phases of roof work

  • Identify fall hazards at different phases of roof works, including access to the roof, working on the rooftop, and transfer and placement of work materials to the roof. Common hazards include unprotected roof edges, fragile roof surfaces, unsecured roof surfaces and unguarded roof openings.

Worker well-being

  • Remind workers to adopt safe work practices. Provide workers with adequate rest and remind them to stay hydrated. Encourage workers to report to their supervisors if they are under medication, feeling unwell, or experiencing severe fatigue. Workers who are afraid of heights should never be deployed to work at heights.

Further Information

  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (Construction) Regulations 2007
  5. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
  6. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  7. Code of Practice for Working Safely at Heights
  8. Singapore Standard SS 528: 2014 Specification for Personal Fall-arrest Systems Parts 1 to 6
  9. Singapore Standard SS 570: 2011 Specification for Personal Protective Equipment for Protection against Falls from a Height – Single Point Anchor Devices and Flexible Horizontal Lifeline Systems
  10. Singapore Standard SS 607: 2015 Specification for Design of Active Fall- protection Systems
  11. WSH Guidelines for Working Safely on Roofs
  12. WSH Guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment for Work at Heights
  13. WSH Guidelines on Anchorage, Lifelines and Temporary Edge Protection Systems
  14. WSH Council’s Work at Heights Toolkit for Supervisors
  15. WSH Council’s Case Studies Booklet on Accidents Involving Work at Heights
  16. WSH Council’s Activity Based Checklist for Working Safely at Heights
  17. 6 Basic Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Rules for Working at Heights 1
  18. WSH Council ‘s Take Time to Take Care (Working at Heights) Video