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May 11, 2010

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SHE 10 – Backing for training in use of ladders

Two students from Glasgow University took to the soapbox to debate the merits of training workers in the use of ladders, as part of the Access Industry Forum’s Working at Height Knowledge Base at the Safety & Health Expo.

The mock debate, on behalf of the Ladder Association, discussed the issues around the motion: ‘that ladders and stepladders are so simple to use, that training is pointless’. The student speaking in favour of training told the audience that around 3500 accidents occurred in 2007/08 as a result of falls from height from ladders – a statistic that, he argued, was far too high to dismiss.
An organised training programme is needed, he argued, as a means to improve awareness of the risks involved with working on ladders, and the decision-making process that individuals should go through before they undertake working at height. Because many of the tasks performed on ladders are relatively simple, repetitive and everyday tasks, training does not become irrelevant but essential to counteract carelessness and complacency, which can inevitably set in.
Counter-arguing that training is, in fact, irrelevant in this area, a second student suggested that one of the biggest reasons why people get injured when using ladders is that they are using the wrong equipment for the task and the environment in which they are working. The issues is less about learning how to use ladders and more about using the right equipment.
He argued that familiarity breeds contempt and that a major cause of accidents involving ladders can be overconfidence on the part of the worker who might overlook small details. Rather than improving people’s awareness of the risks, he argued that training is more likely to perpetuate the problem of carelessness and overconfidence. Furthermore, compulsory training on ladders could breed a sense of over-regulation and paranoia about health and safety requirements, leading to the possible banning of ladders. On top of this, the costs associated with training workers in the use of ladders, and supervisors in choosing the right ladder could be enormous.
However, despite his protestations, the audience sided strongly with the argument in favour of training.

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