Health & Safety Russian Roulette

Pride cometh before a fall

Hands up who hasn’t done this, or something very similar.

“Oh look, that heavy thing needs fetching from that high shelf. Don’t worry about looking for a stepladder, I’ll just balance on top of this chair/wastepaper basket/pile of books. What’s the worst that can happen…?”

Was it something similar that went through the head of the poor chap from contractors Morrisons when he decided to demonstrate to his colleagues how not, repeat not, to use a ladder? The popular YouTube clip of the health and safety inspector (yes, really) falling off said ladder over a fence and into a pile of children’s toys in the next door garden has become – if you’ll excuse the tabloid speak – “an internet sensation”.

The poor man was trying to demonstrate a new system that will stop workers falling off ladders. However, he didn’t exactly get off to a great start when he climbed the ladder without his hard hat – breaching site safety law numero uno.

One of his colleagues attempted to help by chucking a hard hat up to him, which meant he had to take his hands off the ladder.

The fall arrest system that he was demonstrating was, presumably, designed to stop him falling off the ladder. Which in a way it did, since he was still attached to it when the ladder which, crucially, he had forgotten to secure, tipped sideways.

The poor man has now been suspended pending investigation but it does show us all some valuable lessons:

1. Building sites are dangerous places – just look at the HSE statistics on accidents.

2. Workplaces are dangerous places – just look at the HSE statistics on accidents.

3. Even the most sensible person can have problems at times – just look at the HSE statistics on accidents.

4. If something can be cocked-up, someone will find a way to do so.

It’s dangerous old world out there .

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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