WorkSafeBC Home

Roofer falls through skylight opening


Several workers were working on a flat section of a residential roof to replace the roof. A roofer removed the skylight and covered the 4-foot-by-4-foot opening with a sheet of polyethylene. After cutting a piece of board to install as the first layer of new roofing, the roofer fell backwards onto the polyethylene and then fell 17 feet 11 inches through the skylight opening to the floor below. The roofer was wearing a fall protection harness but was not tied off to an anchor point. The roofer sustained fatal injuries as a result of the fall.


Findings as to causes
  • Unguarded roof opening: Removal of a skylight created an opening. It was not securely covered with a cover of adequate size and strength or guarded by moveable guardrails.
  • Fall protection available but not used: The roofer was wearing a fall protection harness but he was not connected to a fall protection system. There was nothing to prevent him from falling to the ground when he fell through the skylight opening.
Findings as to underlying factors
  • The employer failed to establish consistent safe work procedures for covering or guarding skylight openings and other roof openings. A sheet of polyethylene was tacked down at the four corners to cover the opening.
  • Inadequate supervision: The employer did not have a foreman or supervisor making periodic inspections of the workplace to ensure the health and safety of the workers. The roofers were left to identify and manage any hazards based on their own previous experience and knowledge.
  • Lack of coordination of health and safety activities at the workplace: The homeowner was unaware he was responsible for the duties of the prime contractor in the absence of a written agreement with any other party to be the prime contractor. As a result, there was no system in place to ensure the various trades on site complied with the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, including fall protection requirements.

Publication Date: Jul 2011 File type: PDF (1 MB) Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2011157560166