Solar panel installation is high on the HSE construction division’s priority list. This is because falls from height continue to be the most common cause of serious injury at work. They’re behind 45% of all fatal injuries and 31% of “specified injuries”, i.e. broken bones, head injuries and other serious accidents.

In March 2016 solar firm P V Solar UK Limited was fined £153,000 with costs of £29,480 for breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005 . The prosecution followed a worker’s fall through a fragile roof light at a private home in Kent. The man fractured his shin and a vertebra but it could have been worse; his life was saved by chance as he landed in a swimming pool below.

Investigators found that a scaffold tower and safety harness had been used but these were inadequate, and in any case, employees had no formal training or instruction in how to use them.

The solar industry has boomed and it’s attracted many companies to the market who don’t have a track record in dealing with roof work. In particular this includes electrical contractors who don’t generally have much experience of setting up sites for complex construction work.

Solar panels are installed on all types of roof including those in the highest risk category, i.e. fragile roofs. For this work there are significant safety measures required which are more difficult for inexperienced contractors to organise.

TEAM Safety Services can provide Clients and Installers advice and guidance on suitable safe systems of work, but remember if there is a risk of a fall likely to cause harm suitable controls must be established! This applies to all working at height and “some” of the solar panel industry need to improve how they manage this risk!