Prime Minister David Cameron is often quoted as saying health and safety should be scaled back in offices, just recently he was quoted as saying the requirements for ladder safety needed to be relaxed.  To some degree what he is saying does appear to be common sense, but one recent prosecution of a large global company seems to contradict his statements on abolishing so called red tape.

The UK division of a global company has been fined for safety failings after an employee fractured his arm in a fall from a dangerous step ladder. The company was prosecuted in February 2014 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified that the ladder he was using wasn’t fit for purpose. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the step ladder collapsed as the worker tried to reach the upper level of a racking system, sending him falling at least a metre to the floor below and due to his injuries he was unable to return to work for several weeks.

The HSE established that the ladder was in a poor condition and was critically weakened by a crack that eventually caused it to fail. The court was told it was one of two step ladders available to staff that had cracks.

The Company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £8,940 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Monica Babb commented:

“Ladders are often seen as an everyday item that can be taken for granted. They are not routinely checked, which is vital when it comes to identifying potential defects. Yet when they fail the consequences can be very serious. On this occasion a worker sustained a painful elbow injury, but it could have been much worse had he fallen from a greater height or landed in a different position. They should have implemented a more robust system for inspecting step ladders and providing replacements when defects were identified. Checking ladders is an essential aspect of safely managing work at height, and I hope today’s prosecution sends a clear message to others.”

So what should an employer be doing to make sure their ladders are safe and fit for purpose?

  • Establish a register of all ladders and step ladders within your premises and remember to number them all. This way you actually know what you have.
  • Check the ladders you have conform to the minimum standards for a workplace, if they say domestic rated, throw them away, even a few sets of new ladders will cost less than the almost £14,000 cost of the prosecution above, and that does not even include any possible civil compensation claim they may be facing.
    • Aluminium ladders should be to BS2037 class 1 or BS/EN 131 standard.
    • Wooden ladders should be to BS1129 standard.
    • Fiberglass ladders should be to BS/EN 131 standard.
  • Train your staff to check ladders for faults before and after use.
  • Train staff in the safe use of ladders – Yes this may seem silly as everyone knows how to use ladders, the truth is most people don’t.
  • Establish a ladder use register to help you identify who used the ladder last and also how often ladders are used.

For help and advice on your ladders and maintaining them contact our Health & Safety team at Park City Consulting Ltd on 01206 752100

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