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Written on 28th June 2022 by Kim Milan

It has been estimated that every 11 minutes someone in the UK attends A&E with an injury caused by falling from a ladder. Over a million UK businesses and 10 million workers carry out some form of work at height each year. In the workplace, ladder accidents account for up to 40% of falls from heights. Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace fatalities, severe injury and disability

Ladders are not banned in the workplace by health and safety law but their use must be carefully considered, planned and managed to reduce the risk of injury to the person using them. Ideally, ladders should only be used in compliance with guidelines, for short periods of time in low risk situations.

The law says that employers must provide and maintain suitable work equipment ( The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998)  and provide safe equipment and risk-assessed, safe ways of working at height (The Work at Height Regulations 2005). Employers also have a general duty to provide safe working conditions for their employees.

Workplace ladder safety is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Recent HSE prosecutions of negligent employers whose workers have fallen from ladders have resulted in substantial fines and, in one recent case, a suspended prison sentence, community service order and fine for a negligent site manager.

Workers who suffer workplace falls and serious injuries which should have been prevented may be entitled to claim substantial compensation

Reducing risk when using ladders

HSE and the Ladder Association provide ample guidance to support employers and employees in using ladders and stepladders safely. This includes knowing when or when it is not appropriate to use a ladder. They say that ladders are not appropriate for all situations and can only be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment that provides better fall protection is not justified.  Factors which affect whether a ladder can be used include the assessed risks, whether the ladder will be stable on level ground and can be secured, or how long the ladder will be in use during the particular job. The guidance recommends using alternative equipment if the task would require the worker to stay up a ladder for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Where a ladder is the only justifiable option, the right type of ladder must be used for the job, and the person using it must know how to use it safely. Detailed visual inspections of the ladder (together with any necessary maintenance) must be carried out regularly (and recorded) by employers. The person using the ladder (or their competent, trained supervisor) should also check that the ladder is safe and suitable for the particular job at the beginning of the working day and every time it is moved. If any defects are spotted, such as damaged or bent stiles or rungs, worn or damaged or dirty ladder feet, slippery or dirty steps, or faulty or insecure locking mechanisms, the ladder should not be used.

Ladders should only be used on firm, level ground and clean, solid, non-slippery surfaces so that the ladder feet will grip the ground. The ladder must be secured and protected or located away from hazards such as power lines, or vehicles, doors or windows which could push it over. The public should be prevented from using it or walking underneath or near it.

The HSE and the Ladder Association advise that the ladder must be long enough for the task. Workers should not need to use the top three rungs of a leaning ladder. If the ladder is used to access another level it should be tied and extend at least 1m above the landing place to provide a secure handhold. The ladder should be correctly angled to maximise stability. The person using the ladder should not overreach or carry heavy tools and materials which could cause them to slip or overload the ladder. Ideally, the worker should always have three points of contact with the ladder. Where a stepladder or combination (A frame) ladder is used, the locking mechanism must be properly engaged.

The law and the guidance relating to safe use of ladders and working at height is extensive. Employers are expected to follow the recommended guidelines and ensure that their employees are properly trained and/or supervised when using ladders to reduce the risk of accidents and serious injury.

Compensation claims for serious injury from workplace accidents involving ladders and working at heights

Boyes Turner’s specialist personal injury lawyers have helped countless clients obtain rehabilitation and compensation for serious and life-changing injuries caused by workplace ladder accidents. Our clients come from the public and private sector and from many industries, including construction, maintenance, retail, warehousing and factory work.

Injury claims commonly arise after falls from inappropriate, broken/defective, unsecured or slipping ladders, or falls from ladder rungs which were slippery or as a result of inappropriate footwear. In many cases, a risk assessment would have identified that a ladder was not a safe way to carry out the task, and that the employee required protective equipment and a more secure working platform. In most cases where severe injury occurred, multiple breaches of the regulations and safety guidance occurred.

Injuries from ladder accidents and falls from heights can result in death or long-term disability from brain and spinal injury, musculoskeletal injury (MSK) or multiple fractures. Compensation pays for the costs of surgical/medical treatment, care and therapies, specialist equipment and necessary home adaptations. Where the employer’s insurers wholly or partially accept responsibility for the accident, we can often obtain early interim payments to relieve the financial hardship suffered from being unable to return to work.

If you or a family member have been seriously injured in a workplace accident, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about making a claim by contacting us here.