Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, fell off a stepladder in 2004 while trying to remove a display from a wall of the school. He fractured his skull and suffered damage to his right kidney.
He brought a personal injury claim against the local authority, claiming that he had not received adequate training in the use of stepladders. He had, however, received some training – he had been told not to stand on the top step of the ladder and not to work at heights greater than three metres.
However, a contributing factor to the accident was that Mr Gower-Smith had placed the ladder parallel to the wall on which he was working instead of at right-angles to it, which is safer. Mr Gower-Smith maintained that he had not been made aware of this.
In court the judge explained that it didn't matter that stepladders were everyday pieces of equipment. Thorough training was still required. In fact, because they are everyday items it is more important to point out the potential risks in using them. The judge found that the training given to Mr Gower-Smith was deficient in that this was responsible for his lack of knowledge of the extent of the danger attached to placing the ladder side-on to the wall.
The court did, however, rule that the damages award should be reduced by 25 per cent because of Mr Gower-Smith’s contributory negligence.
The claim was for between £15,000 and £50,000, but the exact amount of the settlement is yet to be decided.
For information on the safe use of ladders and stepladders, see the HSE website.