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When The Wrong Ladder For The Job Is An Employers Neglect of Duty

17th December 2013
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 places a clear duty on employers, the self-employed, and any person who is responsible for managing the work of others to ensure “all work at height is properly planned and organised, the risks assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected and used.”

However, many accident claim cases can show that lack of proper risk assessment linked to an employer’s concern to “completing the job” as quickly as possible leads to corners being cut, neglect of safety precautions and increasing the real risk of an accident taking place – which all too often, eventually does occur.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), between 2008-09 more than 4,650 major injuries and over 7,000 further injury categories were caused by a fall from height. Between 2011 and 2012, around 500,000 working days were lost by a fall from height as a self-reported, non-fatal injury in the workplace (Labour Force Survey).

A proper risk assessment would have prevented the fall from a rooftop by a 55 year old bricklayer who was left permanently disabled and unable to return to work after fracturing his spine in two places. At the outset, the plumbing and heating firm employer was asked if a scaffolding platform could be used to access the roof in order to carry out work on the chimney but their instruction was to use ladders that simply lie flat across the roof with the assurance that they were safe enough.

However, the ladder slipped on the roof tiles and the bricklayer fell 20 feet to the ground, shattering his spine, and after several major operations, is no longer able to carry out physical work and suffers from recurring pain, a damaged bladder, anxiety and depression.

There can be many types of ladder accidents, which take place because either the ladder type was inadequate to the task, no longer fit for purpose or is used incorrectly. It is not uncommon to see accident compensation claims stating that “The ladder just gave way”, or “It was so sudden, I don’t know what happened”.

In many instances, the common four legged A-shaped stepladder can be positioned against a wall with only three of its legs actually in contact with the ground. Another frequent cause is the shifting of the centre of gravity, which causes the ladder’s elevated rear leg to impact the ground when the user lifts one foot while stepping from one level to the next or shifts his weight while working. Reflexive overcompensating can cause a total loss of the climber’s balance and lead to a fall.

Click here to find out more about safety with ladders at the HSE website.