Work Training the Key to Personal Injury Claims Involving Ladders

by LaddersDirect on October 10, 2012

Ladder injuries are quite common. In the 2008–2009 year, for example, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported almost 12,000 accidents involving personal injuries stemming from the use of ladders (either in the home or at work). Sadly, thirty-five of these cases were ultimately fatal. Of the rest, the majority went on to file some sort of personal injury claim in the courts. When the accident occurs at home, it is difficult to bring these suits to a successful conclusion unless the injured party can demonstrate a flaw in the design or construction of the ladder itself; after all, using a ladder improperly in the first place for your own personal work is hardly anyone else’s fault. If a flaw in the ladder’s design or construction can be proved, the eventual suit would actually be a product liability suit.

In the workplace, however, these claims have a much better chance of success. The key to such claims stemming from work-related accidents is the Working at Heights Act of 2005. This act puts most of the responsibility for a safe work environment involving ladders on the shoulders of the employer, and specifically requires that all employees who will be asked to work with ladder receive adequate training on their proper use and how to ensure that the environment being worked in is safe for ladder usage. This burden on the employer sides makes personal injury claims much easier to pursue, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, the language of the Act leaves open the question of what entails complete or effective training. Most people are assumed to know the basics of how a ladder works, but there are many components to safe use of a ladder in the workplace. For one, employee training on how to safely deploy an extension or A-frame ladder is essential, including training on surveying the work area, ensuring that surfaces are not slippery or uneven. Training regarding over-reach accidents and improper use of ladders (e.g., stacking one ladder on top of another in order to reach a higher level, standing on the top or shelf of an A-frame ladder, failure to properly use braces in an extension ladder) must be given to all employees and refreshed on a regular basis. As anyone who has worked in a large organisation knows, it is often difficult to ensure that all employees have participated in mandatory training, especially when workers feel the training to be unnecessary. Covering all possible misuses and dangers of ladders is also difficult, as much of the ladder’s safety is directly tied to the environment it is used in.

Secondly, the Act requires a safe work environment, which leaves open the possibility of culpability if it can be demonstrated that the injury resulted directly from an unsafe working area beyond the employee’s control. Slippery floors, obstacles, uneven surfaces, and even work positioned higher than the normal reach of the ladder are all very common occurrences at job sites, and all can, under the right circumstances, be consider negligence under the wording of the Working at Heights Act.

Finally, the employer is responsible for providing correct and working equipment. If the ladder itself is company property and is found to have a defect, the company may be found culpable. If additional safety equipment such as a harness is required for an employee’s safety while working on a ladder, it is the company’s responsibility to provide it and also to train the employee in its proper use. Failure to do so leaves the company responsible for perceived consequences. The fundamental rule is, where there is any possibility of an accident, it is up to the company to take steps to prevent that accident.

For any company seeking to insulate itself from personal injury claims, revising and increasing their training and workplace safety procedures is vital. For any employee who has suffered an injury due to a fall from a ladder while on the job, gathering information about their employer’s safety training regarding ladders is equally vital. In the final analysis the training is either adequate or it is not.

Ladders Direct are a division of Clow Group Ltd, the largest privately owned manufacturer of access equipment in the UK. They have been manufacturing ladders for 100 years and are specialists in work at height ladder safety training. Connect with Ladders Direct on Twitter @Ladders_Direct

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