As any good trades person knows, there is a lot of documented evidence available to best explain how to carry out work safely at height. A particular focus on working at height is the safe use of ladders and scaffold towers.
Of course, used incorrectly, ladders can be amongst the most dangerous piece of equipment and used incorrectly can lead to death or serious injury.
Unfortunately a recent prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive involved dangerous use of both a ladder and a scaffold tower which tragically lead to the death of a labourer from South East London.
How did the accident occur?
The labourer had not received any guidance on the safe use of either a ladder or scaffold tower. The building firm which he was carrying out the work for had not provided either a risk assessment or method statement detailing how he was intending to carry out the job which was to fix a leaking roof at a cement works.
The labourer was provided with an incorrectly erected scaffold tower and an untied ladder to access the roof from the building firm and was not briefed in how to competently work on dangerous equipment.
Furthermore the roof was located near to an additional fragile roofed area and no additional safety equipment such as guard rails, suitable working platforms or coverings to prevent a worker falling onto this area.
Falls from height continue to be the biggest reason for workplace fatalities and account for 29% of deaths reported to HSE in 2013/14. In real terms, this means that 19 workers lost their lives in situations that could have been totally avoidable.
Always ensure you are confident before using equipment like this
Firms are legally obligated to ensure that staff using ladders and scaffold towers are correctly briefed before allowing use of them. Workers must receive appropriate training AND be confident in the use of a ladder and scaffold tower before using them.
Never use a ladder or scaffold tower if you do not feel confident in doing so. In this tragic case, it was clear that the labourer was expected to use equipment which were unsafe and totally inappropriate for the job. We will never know if the labourer felt pressurised into using such equipment or that he genuinely did not realise the dangers.
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