A recent prosecution at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court has again highlighted the importance of ensuring work at height is properly planned and managed, and more specifically, that equipment provided for work at height is fit for use.
The court heard that an employee suffered a serious elbow injury after falling 2m from a ladder when it failed while he was inspecting a steam leak at height at the chemical company’s Workington site.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to ensure that work at height was properly planned and managed. The company also failed to ensure that equipment provided for use at height was inspected at regular intervals and was fit for use.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which states ‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.’ The company was fined £120,000 with £5155.80 in costs.
In response to this prosecution, the Ladder Association – the not-for-profit lead industry body dedicated to promoting the safe use of ladders and stepladders – once again highlights the importance of regular inspection of any ladder or stepladder in determining if it is both suitable for the work task and in a safe condition before use.
Comments Dennis Seaton, Chair of the Association’s Training Committee, “It is clear from this case that the ladder in question was not fit for use. This unfortunate accident could have been avoided if the company had carried out the correct ladder inspections; detailed recorded visual inspections should be carried out regularly by a competent person, and pre-use checks should be carried out by the competent user before using a ladder.
With regards to inspection by a competent person, we firmly believe that training can help to prove competence as required by the Work at Height Regulations. That’s why the Ladder Association has developed a range of ladder safety courses, most notably in this case, the Ladders and Stepladders Inspection course which is specifically aimed at those persons responsible for inspecting and maintaining ladders or stepladders in their workplace. The course provides essential practical guidance on assessing the need for inspection, fault-finding and recommending actions and record keeping in accordance with the Regulations.
It is imperative that companies who use ladders in the workplace, assign the role of inspection to a person (or persons) who have the necessary training, skills, experience and knowledge. By doing so, there is much greater likelihood that accidents such as this, can be avoided.”
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, even from low level falls. 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 their ‘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.’
For further information on the Ladder Association’s ‘Get a Grip’ on ladder safety campaign and the range of approved training courses available, visit www.ladderassociation.org.uk/get-a-grip
* Source: HSE annual statistics for Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2019