I read recently an article promoting what I understand is called the ladder exchange.This does not mean as I initially thought, that one can go to one’s neighbour or friend and swap ladders! To do so would be rather bizarre. Fortunately this is nothing of the sort.Instead this appears to be an excellent idea introduced by Health & Safety for whom I have considerable respect, to encourage employers to exchange their ladders if they are broken. This of course is meant to remove those ladders which are broken or in some way defective from use and thereby prevent an accident which is what the Heath & Safety Executive is all about.Accidents involving ladders do of course fall within the serious category. I say this simply due to the obvious fact that if you are climbing a ladder, even a relatively small ladder no more than 5 feet in height and subsequently fall and injure yourself, you are likely to sustain a more serious an injury than if you had maybe tripped over a paving stone. Tripping over a paving slab can of course lead to a serious injury, however the obvious association having fallen from a height generally suggests that the likelihood of a more serious injury occurring is greater. Employers have a duty to provide safe plant and equipment. I have mentioned this before in a previous blog. If an employee therefore is required to use a ladder as part of their job and the ladder having been provided by the employer, the requirement upon the employer is that the ladder should be safe and could be used without mishap.By this I mean that if the ladder does break in any way, whether or not it was obvious that it might do so, the employer is responsible and indeed is absolutely or strictly responsible in accordance by Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and the interpretation of those Regulations dealt with by the Court of Appeal in the case of Stark –v- The Post Office.I dealt with previously in a blog how employers are responsible and liable to an employee who sustained an injury where the equipment is defective whether or not the defect in the equipment was obvious. I raised a point in relation to a client of mine who sustained a nasty injury to his shoulder when he fell from a ladder where the defect in the ladder caused the ladder to break and subsequently my client to fall, was not obvious.The case I have referred to above of Stark gives rise to strict liability and therefore the employer is responsible whether or not the defect is obvious in the equipment being used.The ladder exchange therefore is an excellent idea. There is only so much that the Health & Safety Executive can do to ensure that equipment is appropriately used and safe. This has always been the case. The Health & Safety Executive provides information to employers on health and safety requirements which can be easily accessed either via the post or indeed on the Health & Safety Executive website. It is incumbent upon any employer, large or small to keep ahead of changes in regulations and guidance provided by the Health & Safety Executive. Any employer who fails to do so, does so at his own peril. I shall comment in a later blog on such a situation where an employer failed to keep ahead of relevant materials that had been produced by the Health & Safety Executive particular to the type of work which the employer was carrying out. The failure to do so resulted in a very serious outcome.Tristan Hallam is a partner in Personal Injury in the London office of Russell Jones & Walker.
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