HSE Fines Companies for Flouting Ladder Safety Measures
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are not just in existence to legislate against employers as a recent case in Southampton has proved. A painter had balanced an extremely long ladder on the roof of his van to paint a shop frontage and has been fined £4,000 plus £666 costs for recklessly endangering himself, a colleague and members of the public by flouting a number of health and safety guidelines relating to working at a height training, warning members of the public of possible dangers and using inappropriate equipment. A ladder was considered to be totally wrong for the job at hand and a member of the public tipped off the local HSE office, who got photographic evidence of the incident before taking the painter to court. Many people are under the impression that putting oneself in danger is not against the law but of course this is far from being the case – it is only rarely that dangerous behaviour such as this only affects the person taking the risks. There is still a lot of danger from falling objects (or people!), traffic obstruction or collapse of flimsy ladders.
Employers are also sometimes to blame
Another case, reported in the same week as the one above, relates to a situation in which a worker was given inappropriate equipment to complete a task which resulted in life-changing injury. In this case, the worker was given a ladder to use to attach a scaffolding unit to a piece of stage set when it slipped and he fell some 2 metres, landing on his heels and damaging both to the extent that he is now wheelchair-bound and unable to work. The court concluded that the ladder was not appropriate equipment for the task and that a tower scaffold or a MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) should have been provided, in order that anyone working on the job would have had secure footing. Also receiving the correct training for working on mobile scaffold towers is essential. Ladders are hardly ever the best equipment for the job and their use is limited in the HSE guidelines to very few applications. They are nonetheless seen as a quick and easy (and inexpensive) method of working at a height and their use continues.
Training can minimise accidents with ladders
It is hard to say whether training would have made a difference to the cases outlined above without knowing more detail, but in general the better trained the staff, the fewer accidents happen. The proper equipment has to be made available and that is of course up to the employer, but a worker who is equipped with the knowledge of how to use various different methods of working at a height, whether it is basic ladder training or very specific powered access equipment handling, will always be safer than someone who is ignorant of the health and safety implications. Although it is difficult for many to speak out when an employer sets a task with inadequate equipment available, knowledge of health and safety legislation puts them in a stronger position and in the case of working in any hazardous situation, knowledge is certainly power and can save lives.