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Working at Height: Simple Steps could save your Life!

With all this warm weather it’s no surprise to see so many people outside doing those jobs which involve a piece of equipment that causes over 90,000 people to visit A&E each year from which at least 300 die.  I’m referring to the use of a ladder and, although injuries involving ladders at home can be serious, the work related incidents appear to be much worse because of the heights involved and often the circumstances are more dangerous.

There is a train of thought that using a ladder correctly is so obvious that there is no need for any regulations or training; indeed this is certainly true when you look at the number of injuries to DIY enthusiasts and is probably why someone came up with the famous saying “it’s as easy as falling off a ladder.”  Statistics show that many people do forget the basics, become blasé, and take unnecessary risks including over-reaching, wearing the wrong footwear, positioning the ladder on uneven or slippery ground or simply exceeding the maximum weight limit of the ladder.  There is an excellent on-line tool called WAIT, which is available on the Health & Safety Executive website, and if you’re thinking about climbing a ladder anytime soon please go and read it.  You’ll be glad you did!

In the workplace employers have a legal obligation under the Work at Height Regulations and, as strange as it sounds, a place is ‘at height’ if a person could be injured falling from it even if it is at or below ground level.  The Regulations would apply, for example, to a shop worker who was using a stepladder to fill the shelves but strangely would not apply to a mounted police officer who was out on patrol.

Employers are required to provide proper training to their staff in the use of ladders, planning any work that involves using a ladder, and carrying out a risk assessment prior to that work being undertaken.  This should include considering the weather conditions, whether the employee is competent to carry out the task at height, the location of where the task is being carried out and providing the right type of ladder for the task.  Despite the wealth of advice available accidents continue to happen and they can be life-changing events.  To emphasise the point a member of my family fell from a ladder at home a few weeks ago when she placed it on a slightly uneven surface and had over-reached causing it to slide.  She suffered a serious neck fracture but is thankfully making a recovery albeit very slowly.  There is a lesson here and that is taking a few basic precautions will potentially save your life.

Avoid working at height if at all possible; window cleaners now manage this very well.  Use the right ladder for the task; consider the environment you’re working in, the ground on which the ladder is going to sit and the weather if you’re outside.  Finally, if possible, make sure you are not on your own because falling off a ladder is bad enough – not being found when you’re seriously injured is simply not worth the risk.

Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can offer advice to anyone who suffers a personal injury whilst working at height.  Free and confidential legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit our website

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