Leading trade union Amicus has secured compensation for a member from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, from Northern Electric Plc. The compensation is for a workplace injury which was incurred by Kevin Noble after falling from his company vehicle while trying to secure a ladder to its roof. The compensation was secured by Amicus' free legal help scheme.

Kevin Noble, aged 52, is a rapid response electrician who has been employed by Northern Electric Distribution Limited (NEDL) since 1970, previously known as the North Eastern Electricity Board. His job involved driving a Citroen Despatch van from his home to emergency situations to attend to electricity substations in fields, or electricity cuts in homes or in streets or businesses. 

In 2003 he slipped from his company van while trying to secure a ladder to the roof and cracked several ribs as he fell onto the passenger door. The pain from the rib injury – particularly when removing and securing the ladder - meant that Mr Noble was unable to return to work for a period of time. During this time he was also anxious not to move awkwardly or place extra stress or strain on his ribs for fear of further pain.

Employer admitted liability for accident

Northern Electricity Plc admitted liability for the accident because at the time of the accident the company van was fitted with a static ladder rack on the roof, which could not be reached from the ground. Mr Noble was never provided with any training on to how to access the roof or any recommended way of removing or replacing the ladders until after the accident.

Graham Goddard, regional secretary for Amicus, comments: "We're very relieved that our member can finally claim the compensation he deserves. We are also pleased that this ruling has led to a decision by Northern Electric Plc to fit a sliding rack, known as an easy load ladder, to every van. This will prevent further injuries of this type occurring to our members."

The sliding rack, known as an easy load ladder, is fitted to the roof and is pulled off the roof by a handle. The rack then leans against the back of the van whilst the ladders are undone, which means the ladders can be untied or refastened on the ground. 

Kevin Noble comments: "The easy load ladder is much safer than the fixed ladder rack and if this system had been fitted at the time of my accident, I would have had no need to stand on the van seat and I wouldn't have fallen. It upsets me that my pain and inconvenience could have been easily avoided by a simple health and safety risk assessment."

There had been previous complaints about ladders

He continues: "I was more upset to learn from my union Amicus that there have been a number of previous complaints about access to ladders. One or two of my colleagues have also nearly had accidents while clambering on the van to access ladders. To the best of my knowledge, NEDL failed to act on these complaints. If the complaints had been taken more seriously prior to my accident and the situation assessed, I believe my accident could have been avoided. I am pleased with the outcome and I have been very impressed by the speed and efficiency of Amicus' free legal scheme and would recommend it to others."

Helen Tomlin from Thompsons Solicitors explains: "Kevin Noble, like many other NEDL employees, adopted his own method of removing and refastening the ladder. He either stood on the back door lintel to reach the back rack or on the passenger seat to reach the front rack. This is not acceptable health and safety procedure for any company, especially for such a large company."