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Written on 27th June 2022 by Kim Milan

Many working adults, particularly those in construction and other dangerous industries, accept that risk is part of their job, but it is an employer’s responsibility to manage that risk. Acknowledging risk enables employers to reduce danger by planning and implementing safe ways of working. Where the dangerous environment can’t be changed, the worker’s personal risk of injury can be reduced with appropriate equipment, supervision and training. Accidents change lives, often with permanent and devastating consequences, but many common workplace accidents are preventable.

The law and countless health and safety regulations, supported by guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), provide a framework to help employers (and their employees) plan and carry out potentially dangerous work whilst minimising the risk of accidents and injury. In all of the workplace injury claims I have handled for clients over the past 25 years, their injuries would have been prevented if their employer had considered the risks and taken a few simple steps to follow the available guidance.

The case featured here, which I recently settled for an injured roofer, arose from working conditions which are all too common, but involved multiple safety failings and breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by his employer.

Paul’s story

Paul was injured whilst stepping off a ladder onto the roof of a house when the ladder slid backwards and he fell to the ground below. His injuries included a displaced, comminuted joint depression type calcaneal fracture – a serious fracture to his heel bone associated with long term disability. Post-accident surgery had been unsuccessful and this injury, combined with the effects of a previous injury to his other heel, left him physically unable to return to labouring or roofing work.

Paul’s employers and their insurers recognised that mistakes had been made and fully accepted responsibility for his injuries. Their admission of liability enabled us to secure their funding for further private surgery and rehabilitation. We were also able to obtain interim payments to relieve our client’s money worries whilst we pursued his accident at work injury claim.  

Roofing, using ladders and working at heights are all known to carry risks, which the worker often feels they must accept as going with the territory. The law expects employers to know better. They must take steps to protect their workers’ safety. Even without the benefit of hindsight, the risks were there to be seen, and were ignored in this case.

Paul and his manager were working on a roof which they accessed via a long extension ladder which had been placed against the front of the house. The ladder was in use in this way throughout the project during which Paul repeatedly needed to access or descend from the roof. He was also required to carry tools, materials and equipment up and down the ladder.

The ladder was leaning against a plastic gutter bracket which was not strong enough to withstand the weight of the ladder and the way it was being used. Given the height at which the men were working, the continued use of the ladder and its unsecure position did not provide a safe way to access the roof or a safe platform from which to carry out their work. The poor positioning and instability of the ladder increased the risk of slippage. When the ladder became unstable and slipped there was nothing in place to protect the roofer or reduce the extent or impact of his fall. Paul’s accident and his injuries could easily have been prevented if his employer had provided more suitable stable equipment.

Like many manual workers, Paul’s trade was all he knew. He had been a roofer since the age of 15. He didn’t have any qualifications or the skills needed for sedentary office work. After the accident he had tried to retrain to become an HGV driver but his injury limited his ability to work, his own manoeuvrability and his ability to manage the pedals of the truck, and he was unable to get sufficient driving experience to achieve the necessary qualification.

As a man in his forties, and the father of two young boys, the impact of the accident and his subsequent limitations hit him hard. In addition to the ongoing effects of his physical injury, the accident had left him with psychological symptoms and financial worries. Most of all he hated not being able to work. Paul was a lovely client but he’s the sort of man who doesn’t find it easy to open up about his concerns and vulnerabilities. As his solicitor, it was important for him to know that he could trust me. His injury should have been prevented, but it wasn’t. I needed him to tell it as it is,  (and called him out a few times!)  so that I could get him the compensation he deserved. 

If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of a preventable accident at work, and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.