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Fatal ladder fall prompts safety warning

The death of a Devon man after falling just seven feet,

click on the link to read the full article



12 months of HSE myth busting campaign.

This is another of Judith Hackitt’s blog articles. I truly believe the message must start to get through soon. Well done HSE!

12 months of myth busting

It’s 12 months now since the launch of the Myth Busters Challenge Panel, which has been a real success. It has probably done more than any other initiative to get behind the headlines and set the record straight about health and safety. It’s far from job done but we are making good progress.

We’ve uncovered and exposed abuses and misuses of health and safety right across Britain, and seen ‘health and safety’ trotted out to justify all sorts of ridiculous decisions.

The first case we dealt with involved an allotment owner being wrongly told to remove a children’s swing on health and safety grounds. But for much of the year it has felt like we were on a roundabout – the same underlying issues coming back into focus, time and again.

We analysed the first 100 cases, and found that 38 were poor customer service or people simply making an excuse for an unpopular decision. Fear of civil litigation and the need to do things to get insurance coverage crop up regularly too. Almost a quarter involved disproportionate, over the top interpretation of the regulations. It’s also clear that there is a good deal of confusion between health and safety and other legislation such as food, hygiene and fire regulations.

Basic communication failures when explaining the reasons for a decision often lead to confusion – is it really too much to expect people to explain the reasons for their decision rather than just saying “elf’n’safety innit, guv”?

I suppose it’s easy to understand why poor customer service keeps cropping up – if the real motives were properly explained many more of us would be likely to take our custom elsewhere. I love the fact that a friend of the chap who was refused a toothpick in a restaurant on elf n safety grounds bought the place – there’s one restaurant where he won’t be getting dodgy excuses in future!

Over interpretation of regulations regularly appears – sometimes because it is easier to impose a blanket rule across a whole site rather than apply a risk based approach. But at the core of proper health and safety is reasonableness and a sense of proportion, driven by a need to protect people from serious threats to their wellbeing at work. Regular readers of my blog will know my views on hi-viz in this context.

If we are ever going to restore the reputation of health and safety, myth busting will need to become a popular cause rather than being HSE led. We’ll continue to play our part, and work to tackle the root causes. But we need many more members of the health and safety community in particular to champion sensible, proportionate decision making and to be willing to speak up when things are good enough rather than chasing ever decreasing levels of risk. That would be something to celebrate.


Adequate and appropriate supervision?

ImageIt has now become the most common complaint that I get from operatives on training courses;  poor supervision being conducted by a person that simply does not know about the equipment being used and is quite literally incompetent. These operators and users are resigned to never pointing out that the policy is wrong and even putting them at risk for fear of being ‘Carded’ by the person in control of their work activities.

Frequently this is a Health and Safety professional that believes that they know all that they need to because they passed a general Health and Safety course. Put directly, there are some people in a position of supervisory power that are making poor decisions and using their power to implement these decisions beyond and often in opposition to the competent decisions of trained contractors.

Why does this happen so frequently? Why would managers allow these decisions to slow the business down and make it more dangerous? The answer is usually fear and ignorance. The manager is not a health and safety professional and therefore will defer to the qualified expert through fear of being held accountable. The qualified expert will on many occasions make decisions based on their judgment and perception and will tend to err on the side of caution believing that this is the safest way. This leads to potential conflict


but of course the Health and Safety professional can always site regulations to back up his case. Let’s just see what some regulations say about supervision (Control of others work activity).

PUWER 98 Regulation 9 paragraph 2 states-

(2) Every employer shall ensure that any of his employees who supervises or manages the use of work equipment has received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken.



LOLER 98 Regulation 8 Organisation of lifting operations-


 (1) Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is –

(a) properly planned by a competent person;

(b) appropriately supervised; and

(c) carried out in a safe manner.


A MEWP (Scissor lift or Cherry Picker) is a piece of Lifting equipment.

Work at Height Regulations 05-

Organisation and planning


Regulation 4. – (1) Every employer shall ensure that work at

height is –

(b) appropriately supervised; and(a) properly planned;

(c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is

reasonably practicable safe,

and that its planning includes the selection of work

equipment in accordance with regulation 7.

Further the Work at Height Regulations 05 state-


5. Every employer shall ensure that no person

engages in any activity, including organisation, planning

and supervision, in relation to work at height or work

equipment for use in such work unless he is competent to

do so or, if being trained, is being supervised by a

competent person.

Regulation 5 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 refers to competence and states that employers should ensure that people engaged in any work at height activity, or using work equipment for that purpose, are competent to do so.

Although ‘competence’ is not defined in the Regulations, HSE has worked with industry to clarify what this means and recommends the definition in Appendix 8 of the Regulations, which state:

‘A competent person is a person who can demonstrate that they have sufficient professional or technical training, knowledge, actual experience, and authority to enable them to: (1) carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them (2) understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration (3) detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment), recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions, and be able to specify a remedial action to mitigate those implications’.

PASMA Training

PASMA Training

I think I can safely stop there. If you are in charge of people that are building Scaffold Towers get PASMA trained to recognise any dangerous acts, bracing patterns and be competent to inspect the towers. If you are supervising MEWP operators get IPAF Trained (Operator of Manager training will do). Insist on pre use and workplace inspections, provide plates for any potentially soft ground and understand when a harness is a hazard and when it is providing protection. Lastly for this blog Ladders. Don’t ban them, they are inanimate objects. Get Ladder Association training to know when they are appropriate and supervise the competent users to ensure they are used safely.

Very lastly I apologise to the huge numbers of real Safety professionals and Supervisors that have actually had this training and run an effective, efficient, safe site. I am not moaning about you and in fact I applaud you and your good work. I just wish that you were not such a small minority. Vast numbers of incidents would be avoided by decent supervision by competent people so lets encourage people to get competent before they get caught out.

Why Ladder Association training is the only worthwhile ladder training.

ImageThe work at height regulations require that all persons that manage, supervise or actually undertake work at height must be competent. The preferred definition used by the HSE for competency is-

‘A competent person is a person who can demonstrate that they have sufficient professional or technical training, knowledge, actual experience, and authority to enable them to: (1) carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them (2) understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration (3) detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment), recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions, and be able to specify a remedial action to mitigate those implications’.

So clearly use of ladders and stepladders requires sufficient professional or technical training but which training course? There are many courses out there some better than others. Some companies simply expect their Health and Safety manager to create a training course because the equipment is so simple. Some think a tool box talk is sufficient but most don’t bother with anything at all. These approaches hold varying degrees of risk to both the user and the organisation and it is from the point of view of the organisation that I will initially address the question of “why ladder Association Training?”

We know that we must adequately train our employees but how do you measure adequate? It’s tricky and is a balance between risk and cost.

  1. We can do no training, this is free and there is a massive risk of injury, prosecution and a civil suit which we will lose. That clearly works out to be rather expensive.
  2. We can conduct in-house training undertaken by a qualified Health and Safety professional. This training course has not been independently measured, the Health and Safety manager is not a qualified Ladder and Stepladder instructor, no manufacturers were involved and therefore the trained would not be aware of the direction that the industry is moving, new innovations, changes to standards etc. Frequently with this sort of training it is just a case of following the HSE guidance. If there were an incident how would we prove that the training was adequate? That the course corresponded with the very latest industry best practice? We couldn’t, so again we are in danger from prosecution and a civil suit. At least we would have an argument but it would be better to have proof.
  3. We could use a training company that has created their own Ladder course. This is basically the same as the above because without involvement from the manufacturers we do not know if what we are saying is technically correct and the course has not been approved.
  4. We can use The Ladder Association’s network of training centres to conduct the training for us. A Ladder and Stepladder User course for 8 people takes just 4 hours though it is an intensive session. It is possible to train 16 people in a single day. This makes it inexpensive and efficient. This is the correct choice but why?

The Ladder Association began as the British Ladder Manufacturers Association which tells you who the founding members were, yes, manufactures. This provides the proof that it is adequate. This is what we need and it is brilliant value for money.

The ladder association has grown since 1947 when it began, actively welcomes members from all sectors and is made up of expert committees. This means that when something gets into the training course material it has been approved by both professional training organisations and the manufacturers themselves via the training committee and approved again by the executive council. The Ladder Association works directly with the HSE to ensure that the HSE are fully informed of any innovations, developments and guidance. The HSE have in fact given their full support to the work of the ladder association. The Ladder Association code of practice contains a forward from the HSE stating this fact and that is why it is PROOF. Ultimately if you want to get it right, protect your people and your business that the only reliable choice is Ladder Association training. Manufacturer members of the Ladder Association include-

Clearly these guys know what they are talking about.

Training members include-

Along with many others and again we know what we are talking about so you get the very best of both worlds.

Ladder Association training centres have to meet very specific criteria and are audited to ensure ongoing compliance. Instructors are trained over the course of a week having had to meet stringent entry criteria to even get onto the instructor course. If they pass that they also have to undertake 2 sessions with a senior instructor mentor and successfully prove themselves before being deemed competent to train the Ladder Association training course. Trainers are also audited and are subject to unannounced visits again to ensure standards are kept up.

Ultimately, if you want the right training, training that is measured, tested and approved by both manufacturers and the HSE, then it has to be from the Ladder Association. Everything else is just a waste of money.

OTJ Training conduct Ladder Association Training all over the country at your premises or at our training centre in Gloucestershire. We are exceptional value for money and everyone goes away surprised at how useful and interesting the training was so give us a call on 01531 821 779 or visit us at and we will make sure that you have everything that your guys get the training that they need keeping both them and you safe.

On that bombshell…

The astonishing thing about the below is how much it sounds like me. It was written however by Judith Hackitt, Current Chair of the Health and Safety Executive! It seems that we sing from the very same song sheet so to speak and with further astonishment it seems that Jeremy Clarkson is too. Read on….

Jeremy Clarkson has never been shy about offering an opinion on health and safety, and I’ve not often Jeremy Clarkson Judith Hackitt Chair of the Health and Safety Executiveagreed with him.

But consider these latest comments in the Sun: “Like many people, I’ve spent the past few years lambasting the clipboard wielding health and safety morons who are turning this country into a risk averse nanny state. But the truth is the real culprits are actually the insurance companies.”

What sparked his wrath is a civil court case in which an insurance company is contesting a compensation payout to a teenage girl who was knocked down and injured by a motorist. The driver’s insurers, he says, have argued that the girl should have been wearing a high viz jacket and in doing so are in danger of setting a precedent that means “every single pedestrian will be told that they can’t go out at night unless they’re dressed up like a riot policeman”.

Is he right? Certainly others will look at the result and worry about what they might need to do now to reduce their risk of civil claims.

We see this all the time in everyday life. Every cup you take away from a coffee shop these days has a warning that the contents are hot. All because somebody sued after being burnt by a drink. Is it really necessary? No, of course not. Coffee should be hot. Is it health and safety? Absolutely not.

But these sort of stories often end up with health and safety getting the blame for something which has nothing to do with the actual regulations. And they are not just stories. They have unintended consequences – activities get watered down because people are nervous about getting sued and want to minimise all risks, not matter how trivial. Others conclude it is just not worth the hassle and abandon events altogether.

I’d like to think that in a small measure, Jeremy Clarkson has picked up on some of the work we have been doing to bust the health and safety myths apart, and the encouragement we have been offering people to question who is really causing this risk aversion.

So if you are reading Jeremy, you made my day. If you want to get me into that reasonably priced car, I’d be happy to show you what managing risk means.



Record take up for Ladder Association Training

Excellent News?

I personally think this is good news but not excellent. I still find it hard to believe how few people are being trained on Ladders and Stepladders. I have put the story of the growth in take up below these comments and it is well worth a read.

If we consider the legalities of Ladder Training, ladders are work equipment and therefore adequate training was required by the PUWER back in 1998. No take up generally and falls from height continued to account for a grossly unacceptable number of deaths and major injuries. By using the statistics compiled from RIDDOR it also became clear that 60% of the major injuries were from ‘Low falls’ (falls from below head height). This indicated a need for a change to current legislation (Construction Health and Safety regulations 1996) to take this into account.

Martin Holden, HM principal specialist inspector for the HSE Construction Corporate topic group than created a committee of experts to discuss what had to be done. This committee became known as ACWAHT (Advisory committee on Work at Height Training). The reason that it ended up being all about training is due to the very simple fact that people are required to create an unsafe situation. Equipment is inanimate and therefore benign but with human intervention it can become dangerous. The team then decided that all persons involved with Work at Height must be Competent and in order to measure competency they had to redefine it. This is what they came up with and this is how the HSE are measuring Competency for work at height in a court of law.

Click on the picture and scroll down to be able to click on “what do the regulations say about competence”

HSE Competency link

HSE/ ACWAHT competency Definition

With this definition so crystal clear why then such a slow and low take up? There are a number of factors to take into account but perception of hazard is key.

Certain equipment is safer by it’s nature than other equipment. MEWP’s  and Mobile Towers utilise collective Fall Prevention and are first choice for a lot of work at height. At OTJ Training we provide training to the highest standard via IPAF and PASMA. There is general acceptance that training on this sort of equipment is necessary and beneficial though the equipment is statistically safer than a ladder. We train people on the use of Harnesses and how to always attempt to create a restraint situation if possible to prevent a fall. Clearly training is vital and a lot of people realise this. All of this to prevent a fall and in fact we MUST to do all that it reasonably practicable to prevent a fall.

Falling however is not the problem. Felix Baumgartne fell from the edge of space, 38894 m from the ground and he is fine.

The reason that he is fine is simple. He decelerated prior to impact. With the use of ladders and Stepladders there is only acceleration and impact. We know from one of my previous blog posts that the impact force of an 80Kg load falling 2m is around 15600 n so with that in mind it is absolutely vital that people do not fall off. Sadly the only thing that prevents people falling off is the way that the equipment is used and the quality and suitability of the equipment.

Unlike MEWPs etc there are no control measures to prevent falls or mitigate the consequences of landing at speed so the only sensible option is training and supervision. The Ladder Association Training programme is quite simply the best that there is and last year we trained over 5000 people. Sites that had banned Stepladders have realised that its people that need to be controlled and are now asking for a Ladder Card to prove competency instead of an outright ban. As long as those supervising are also trained and competent we can all work effectively, efficiently and above all safely. I am proud to be one of the Ladder Association’s Lead instructors and to sit on the Training Committee helping with the development of the training course to make sure we meet the needs and challenges of industry. OTJ Training offer the full range of Ladder Association training courses  so please take a look at and join the thousands of Competent Ladder Users.

The number of people trained by the Ladder Association in the safe use of ladders reached an all-time high in 2012, passing 5,000 for the first time.

The 5,052 people trained in 2012 marks a 47% increase on 2011’s figure of less than 3,500. In training almost 1,000 people during November, the association also reached its highest ever number trained in one month.

Technical director Don Aers said: “It is great to see that more people and organisations than ever are taking the safety message on-board and understanding that there is a vital need for people who use ladders for their work to be trained and competent.

“There are a number of reasons for such an impressive increase, but first and foremost it is evidence of the increasing recognition within industries that ladder training is essential. One of our main goals at the Ladder Association is to make sure that industries where ladders are commonly used understand the dangers of work at height and the need for people using ladders to be competent.”

During the year the Ladder Association took over the Ladder Exchange programme that had previously been run by the Health & Safety Executive. Ladder safety publicity associated with this boosted training numbers.

Mr Aers added: “Our campaigns throughout 2012 played a large part in getting the safety message out, and we have plans to do even more in the coming year. By the end of 2013 we are aiming for another equally sharp jump in the number of people who have the training and understanding they need to be safe at work.”

people who care about others care about themselves

people who care about others care about themselves

Following on from the last post this was a truly brilliant method for getting people to actually wear the harnesses that they needed. I asked permission from Peter to share this and he kindly agreed. Take note, its not all about enforcement, its about motivators.