According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) there were more than 1,800 injuries involving the use of ladders and stepladders between 2009 and 2010. In a previous posting, we wrote that falling from height is still a real risk in the workplace, accounting for some 7,000 injuries and levels of accident compensation claims.
It’s astonishing the number of accident claims, which state that falls from ladders were caused by the ladder slipping or skidding with ‘overreaching’ the most frequently recorded action. Other typical examples also include trying to carry heavy loads or attempting to manoeuvre while still standing on a ladder by “rocking or pushing it away from the wall”.
In all these cases, procedures such as maintenance and regular checking of ladders plus provision of safety training - as required by the Work at Height Regulations - could have prevented many of the accidents from taking place. Routine neglect means that ladders are missing one or more non-slip feet, or have dented, broken or missing rungs or safety clips.
Knowing how to use a ladder is a part of construction industry training. Yet there are copious instances when the requirement to tie or attach to a permanent structure, securing the footing by ensuring the ground is level, stable and clear of all debris or having a second person to provide additional support when needed can be overlooked because it “wastes time”.
Other important considerations of ladder training involve being alert to the likely presence of hazardous surfaces which may contain grease, oil or water. Ladders used over a long period of time can also accumulate a build up of slippery substances, such as spilt paint, plaster, cement, tar, etc. Even the undersides of work boots and shoes need to be checked for mud before attempting to climb a ladder onsite.
Other types of accidents caused by ladders, which can often lead to injury compensation by workers and members of the public, are when they are set up in awkward and dangerous positions or places. The most well known is the placement at too wider angle to the wall. Less obvious is the positioning of a ladder, which does not protect people passing from being hit by tools or materials accidentally dropped or a ladder knocked or struck by any passing traffic, including vehicles such as reversing lorries.
It is the responsibility of employers to ensure their workforce is properly trained before using any equipment or machinery in the course of any work they undertake, even in the office environment where sometimes the idea of being instructed to climb a ladder may be scoffed at.
The number of serious injury claims from accidents with ladders in any environment might change people’s minds.