The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay. — Henry Ford, Founder, Ford Motor Company.

Falls from ladders remain a serious issue in both domestic and industrial space worldwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that In the US in 2020, 105 persons died 22,710 were treated for ladder related injuries. In Australia, 5 persons die and 1,600 are hospitalized annually due to falls from ladders.

Some years ago, I visited the Mandeville Regional Hospital in Central Jamaica and was shocked at the behavior of a two man painting crew, who were repainting the upper floor of the hospital building. They were violating most known principles of ladder safety. Contributing factors could have been many – lack of hazard awareness, poor or no supervision, overconfidence or others. Perhaps there could even have been the perverse thought, that despite the high risk involved, medical assistance would be readily available, given that they were working in a hospital. The risks to both painter and assistant were serious injury, permanent disability or death.

It is hard to believe that with proper training, they would have been operating this way.

What were they doing?

The task appeared to be the painting of the upper floor of the building

1. They were using a portable 25 ft. extension ladder which they moved from time to time.

2. Ladder placement was not vertical in one instance

3. The ladders was not secured in any way

4. The assistant who was at the base of the ladder, did not pay much attention to the painter until it was time to renew the paint roller

Painter at Mandeville Regional Hospital. Assistant is seated at base of ladder.

5. The painter often reached outside the rails of the ladder on both left and right sides

6. The painter was distracted by his phone and was both taking and placing calls


Painter reaching for his cell phone

7. At times, two persons would be on the ladder. The paint container was kept on the ground. There were two rollers. When the active roller was depleted, the assistant would refill the inactive roller and climb hallway up the ladder where he would exchange rollers with the painter.

8. In most instance, there was the maintenance of a three points of contact, however at times all three were not with the ladder as the painter would be supported by the window sill.

Painter reaching beyond rails of ladder. One foot is on window sill.

9. Reach outside of the rails was extreme and at times most of the painter’s body mass, would have been outside the rails.

10. Reach outside the rails was for an extended period. The ladder could have been retracted/replaced for painting under the middle window. The painter chose instead to “lean into it.”

Painter reaching far to the left. Entire area under window painted in this manner.

Interestingly, there was no Supervisor with the painting crew and no one on the property, seemed particularly perturbed, by what was a highly unsafe operation.

Reports on court cases from injuries which arise from falls from ladders make interesting reading. There is the case of Desmond Anderson vs Kingston Hilton Hotel, where the claimant contends that he fell because the ladder was defective and the defendant countering that the ladder was perfect and that there were two assistants provided to secure the ladder. The court found that the ladder was not defective but that one of the assistants was not in place – and made judgement 70% for the claimant and with a 30% reduction for contributory negligence, as the claimant erred in trying to descend an unsecured ladder. Lloyd Anderson vs General satellite is also interesting. Anderson who was installing cable wires fell from a ladder and maintained that a surge of electricity caused him to fall. The court was not convinced of his story and did not believe that he had been impacted by electricity. He also was not wearing a safety belt which has been assigned to him. If he had been wearing the belt, even if he had been affected by electricity, he would not have fallen.

The lessons for managers of persons who be using ladders as a part of their job

– select employees carefully

– train and retrain

– provide safe ladders

– provide other required safety gear – boots, insulated gloves etc.

– conduct a pre-job brief

– supervise the job

– conduct a post-job brief to determine if there is a safer way to do the job next time.




About conliffews

First time blogger
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