A large company has recently found guilty for failing to keep its step ladders in a safe condition; leading to the business being fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £8,940 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
This came after a worker had fallen from what was described as a dangerous step ladder, fracturing his arm in the fall. The HSE investigation found that Iron Mountain (UK) Ltd had failed to identify that the ladder he was using wasn’t fit for purpose. The HSE established that the ladder was in a poor condition and was critically weakened by a crack that eventually caused it to fail.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the step ladder collapsed as the worker tried to reach the upper level of a racking system, sending him crashing at least a metre to the floor below. He was unable to return to work for several weeks.
To make matters worse the HSE found that both step ladders available were in a dangerous condition.
The HSE has warned that where everyday items such as step ladders are used then these should be routinely inspected and confirmed to be in a safe condition or else they should be removed from service until properly repaired.
Our experience shows us that Mountain Horse (UK) Ltd are not unique in failing to complete such simple checks and that often businesses overlook the importance of maintaining such items. For many businesses they need to properly consider what the risks are from working at height as this activity still accounts for many fatal and serious injuries across the U.K.
The HSE provides guidance on its website as to when a ladder is the right tool for the job and this focusses the attention on the importance of risk assessment. The work at height regulations do not ban the use of steps but it does make it clear that you should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely.
Clearly this case also shows the importance of having the right equipment for the job; that is also maintained in a safe condition.