‘Put ladder training at the top of the height safety agenda’, says Ladder Association after worker permanently paralysed
A Northamptonshire painting and decorating employer has been sentenced after an employee sustained serious, life changing injuries after falling from height.
On 7 August 2018, an employee of Ian Ramsay was severely injured when he fell from height whilst installing a roof ladder on a pitched roof at a property in Mawsley, Northamptonshire. The fall resulted in the employee being permanently paralysed from the chest down.
The homeowners hired Mr Ramsay to paint the exterior windows and soffit boards of their property, including the painting of dormer windows within their roof. The employee was in the process of setting up ladders to access the dormer windows when he fell from height.
Investigating, the HSE found that the incident could have been prevented if the work at height hierarchy had been followed in the planning process and if appropriate equipment had been provided to employees, such as fully compliant scaffolding. The risk assessment should have identified that this work was not short duration and that the use of ladders was not appropriate.
Ian Ramsay of Padmans Close, Mawsley, Northamptonshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, 160 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £2,124.28 with a surcharge of £85.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Rachel Grant said: “Employers and those in control of any work at height activity must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people.
“This includes using the right type of equipment for working at height. In this instance, the painting of the soffits and windows was not short duration work and should have been done from appropriate work platforms. Ladders were not the appropriate equipment.”
Ladder Association response
In response to this prosecution, the Ladder Association has is urging all ladder users, and those responsible for managing the safe use of ladders, to put ladder training at the top of their height safety agenda.
Dennis Seaton, Chair of the Association’s Training Committee, said: “Ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low risk and short duration tasks (maximum 30 minutes), but they shouldn’t automatically be your first choice. The law states that ladders can be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.
“Unfortunately, this case highlights the devastating effect a lack of planning can have on using the right type of equipment for working at height. We strongly believe training is an important contribution in keeping people safe when working at height and that training is about more than just using the ladder; it’s about understanding when it’s right to use a ladder (and importantly when it’s not), choosing the right ladder and then understanding the simple steps to take to use the ladder safely.
“Falls from height remain one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities and injuries – accounting for 40 fatalities in 2018/2019 – with many injuries having life-changing consequences for the victim and their families. As businesses face record fines for failing to keep workers safe, the Ladder Association continues to raise awareness of the need for ladder training through our ‘Get a Grip’ on ladder safety campaign. The campaign message is clear – when it’s right to use a ladder, use the right ladder and get trained to use it safely.”
Barbour download: Guide to working at height
Work at any height can cause injury; a fall from a height of just one or two steps can cause serious injury.
The Regulations were amended in 2007 to extend their application to those who work at height providing instruction or leadership to one or more people engaged in caving or climbing by way of sport, recreation, team building or similar activities in Great Britain.
Download your free guide from Barbour to understand: Duties of persons in control of work at height; Duties of persons undertaking work at height; General controls when working at height; Method statement for work at height; Selection of a means of access; Working platforms; Guardrails and toeboards; Ladders Mobile work platforms; Suspended access equipment; Personal suspension equipment and, Inspection of fall arrest equipment.