Properly plan work at height

A recent prosecution at Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court has highlighted the importance of ensuring work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out by a competent person, the Ladder Association has reported.

The court heard that a painter and decorator sustained serious, life-changing injuries after falling from height while setting up ladders to paint the exterior windows and soffit boards of a private property. The fall resulted in the employee being permanently paralysed from the chest down.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the incident could have been prevented if the work at height hierarchy had been followed in the planning process and if appropriate equipment had been provided to the employee. In this specific case, the risk assessment should have identified that the work was not short duration and ladders were not the most appropriate equipment to use.

The painting contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, 160 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs of £2,124.28 with a surcharge of £85.

The Ladder Association has urged all ladder users, and those responsible for managing the safe use of ladders, to put ladder training at the top of their height safety agenda.

Dennis Seaton, chair of the association’s training committee, said: “Ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low risk and short duration tasks (maximum 30 minutes), but they shouldn’t automatically be your first choice. The law states that ladders can be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.”

Falls from height remain one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities and injuries, accounting for 40 fatalities in 2018/2019.