On the 30th of July 2013, a case was heard by the High Court where an Employee was seeking damages for personal injuries* he had suffered as a result of a fall from a ladder while at work. The Claimant was an Electrician who sustained personal injuries* when he fell from a ladder and was seeking damages in excess of €38,092.14 for his pain and suffering and other loss he had suffered as a result of the accident.
The facts of this personal injury* case:
On the day of the accident, the Employee/Claimant was installing cables in the roof a premises.
The evidence given by the Employee/Claimant was that initially, a forklift was used to hoist a caged platform up to ceiling height and from that elevated position, the Employee could safely open the hatch to the roof space and the electrical cables could then be installed.
At the time of the accident however, an extendable ladder was used to access the roof space. The Employee/Claimant secured the ladder while another person went into the roof space.
The Employee/Claimant felt the work in the roof was completed and he went about tidying up and decided to take down the ladder which had been erected earlier in the day.
To do this, he went up the ladder and untied it at the top. He had intended dragging the trapdoor back over the opening before descending the ladder, believing that the trapdoor would then slot into place once the ladder was removed.
However, he did not get the opportunity to do this as once he untied the ladder, it immediately slipped beneath him causing him to fall to the ground.
As a result, the Claimant suffered a serious personal injury* to his right wrist which required surgery and rehabilitation for this work accident*.
The Claimant/Employee’s personal injury* case
The Claimant argued the Defendants were negligent for this work accident* and the personal injuries* sustained because:
- The forklift hoisting a caged platform up to the ceiling should have been used for the duration of the operation
- The extendable ladder was unsuitable for accessing the roof space.
- The Claimant had not been adequately trained to maintain his own safety while working at a height and in particular whilst using a ladder in such circumstances.
The Defendant’s case
The Defendant denied the alleged negligence for the work accident* and personal injuries* sustained because:
- It would not have been possible to have left the forklift with the cage in position during the operation. It was the practice only to use the cage for the purpose of opening the hatch safely. Once that was done workers could get safe access to the roof space using an extendable ladder once properly secured.
- The Employer argued that he had not asked the Claimant to tidy up or take down the ladder. As far as he was concerned, the ladder should have been left in position until the installation was completed.
- The Employee did have sufficient training and knew that an extendable ladder was not safe unless secured at the top or the bottom.
The Court concluded that:
- The Defendant was not negligent in permitting the ladder as opposed to the cage platform to be used.
- The Judge was satisfied the extendable ladder was used safely by the Defendant and his staff;
- The Judge accepted the defendant’s evidence that the claimant was trained on the job and well knew how to maintain his own safety when working at a height or on a ladder.
- The Judge accepted that it is likely that the plaintiff would have received safety training in relation to how to protect himself when working at a height and also in the safe use of ladders.
- The Judge stated that the Claimant departed from standard practice which was that ladders were to be secured at the bottom before they were untied at the top and the Employee took it upon himself to depart from this practice and was the ‘’author of his own misfortune’’.
Conclusion for this Work Accident Personal Injury* Case
All employers have statutory duties in relation to providing a workplace that is safe. All employers have a responsibility to their employees to protect them from injury.
However, an Employer will not be held responsible for injuries suffered by an Employee if he departs from standard work practice, even if he does so with good intentions.
Interestingly in this case, the Judge stated that she found the Defendant to be an impressive witness and it is clear from reading the judgment that the decision of the Court was reached after listening carefully to all of the evidence given by both sides.
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Personal Injuries * In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.