The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Be Safe When Using Ladders

Graham Marshall - Sunday, January 16, 2011

Working at height from ladders, stepladders or mobile trestles is a particularly high-risk  activity if the hazards associated with heights are not appropriately controlled. 

Today's post illustrates the harm that can occur when people fall and it also demonstrates the legal implications of a failure to fulfill duty of care for work at height.


Primejade Holdings Pty Ltd ("Primejade") is a commercial property owner that owns and manages Meadow Springs Boulevard Shopping Centre in Mandurah, Western Australia.  

In managing the center, Primejade employed a contractor to provide maintenance and gardening services.

The Incident

On the day of the accident, the contractor was requested to place unused Christmas decorations on the top of a false ceiling, approximately 4 meters above the floor. 

This involved placing a ladder against a wall, and carrying the bags of decorations up the ladder. 

The decorations were then placed on top of the store's false ceiling and the contractor would climb back down the ladder.

At the time of the incident, the contractor had picked up two bags and was climbing the ladder towards the false ceiling. 

The contractor was about 3-4 rungs from the top of the ladder when the base suddenly gave way.

The ladder and the contractor fell to the ground. 

The contractor sustained serious fractures and torn tendons as a result of the fall.

The Prosecution

Primejade was prosecuted and the business was found guilty of "being a principal who in the course of trade or business engaged a contractor to carry out work for it, failed to provide and maintain, so far as practicable, a working environment in which the contractor was not exposed to hazards, being matters over which the principal had the capacity to exercise control, and by that failure caused serious harm to the contractor".

Primjade was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay court costs amounting to $1,421.

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