An employer which routinely provided workers with ladders that were too short to reach heights and failed to train its staff in the safest way to work at height has paid compensation after a labourer suffered a hernia.

Since the accident Home Group, in Whitehaven, has provided new ladders and given staff training on how to use them correctly.

The 49-year-old from Maryport in Cumbria needed major surgery after suffering the hernia as he pulled himself up from a step ladder through a loft while working for Home Group in Whitehaven.

It was normal practice to use ladders which were too short and for workers to balance themselves on the top to pull themselves up.

Working at Height Regulations

Under the Working at Height Regulations employers must risk assess the use of ladders and ensure that they are used safely.

The GMB member, who has worked for Home Group for 13 years, had to wait 12 weeks for his operation and then was forced to take three months off work whilst he recovered.

Following his accident his trade union, the GMB, advised him to claim compensation and instructed their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim.

Thompsons argued that Home Group should have provided ladders which were appropriate for the job.

Thompsons Solicitors were successful in obtaining compensation

Home Group did not admit liability but Thompsons was successful in obtaining a judgment against them.

The member, who has two daughters, said: “I had to take three months off work after the surgery – the longest I’ve ever taken off sick. I’ve been left with a six inch scar where they operated but otherwise I’ve made a full recovery.

“Since I involved the union we’ve received training and now use new, longer ladders so hopefully this won’t happen to anyone else in the future.”

Kevin Young, Regional Organiser at the GMB said: “Falls from heights are the number one cause of workplace deaths. It is incomprehensible that this employer routinely put its workers’ safety at risk by providing them with ladders that were simply too short for the job and expected them to carry out dangerous manoeuvres to compensate for that. A simple risk assessment would have shown the risks they were exposing staff to. The GMB will not hesitate to expose unsafe working practices such as this.”

Fiona Belgian from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Simple and cheap measures could have avoided this accident, like giving this member and his colleagues appropriate equipment and training. With a little more planning and assessment of the risks, understanding of the limitations of ladders, proper maintenance and training, these accidents could be avoided.”