Roofing Bitumen Burns Fine

One person required skin grafts on both hands and a foot, and also had burns on her head and face. A second person received burns to his chest, forehead, face, lips and under his right arm. Both needed extensive hospital treatment.

Injuries resulted from splashes and scalds by hot bitumen when a roofer’s ladder slipped because it wasn’t properly secured.

Redhill Magistrates’ Court heard the self-employed roofer had been contracted to felt a flat roof and was using bitumen that he melted at ground level before it was transported up a ladder. He and a colleague had already climbed the ladder several times without incident, but it slipped just as the persons approached the workers to ask if they wanted a cup of tea. The bucket fell and the bitumen spilled directly on top of them.

Investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the ladder had not been secured to prevent a slip. It was also in a poor condition, with missing or badly worn rubber feet. The court was told that insufficient measures were taken to prevent the slip and spill, and that it was a wholly unnecessary incident.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector said: “Extreme caution must be taken at all times when working with bitumen because it can be incredibly harmful. The roofer didn’t take extreme care. He was using a ladder with clearly visible defects that wasn’t properly secured, and they sustained horrific burns as a result. Members of the public must be kept out of harm’s way when dangerous materials are being used. The ladder issues aside, the incident could also have been avoided had they been told to stay at a safe distance.”

The HSE Press Release is here.