I recently watched a video with a bunch of friends where the more I watched, the more it horrified me! I suspect the person sharing it didn’t fully appreciate my position as website manager for a health and safety company which specialises in Fall protection!
Although I can see the humour in it, I wince every time the chap puts himself over the edge and blindly searches for the top rung of the ladder with his feet.
As I pointed out the danger to my friend, he turned to me and said “as usual its health and safety gone mad!” I merely pointed out “even if the ladder wasn’t moved, what happens if his hands slipped, what happens if the ladder slipped, what happens if his foot slipped? That fall would be hard to walk away from!” I was instantly beaten down by the rest of my group for bringing my work home with me.
It got me to thinking how many of them would put themselves in this situation, the answer horrified me, every single one of them said they would risk the descent.
“so what if there was a safer exit on the other side of the building?” I asked
The consensus was that if that was the quickest way to their destination they would.
Then I dropped the clanger “what if you had heard that someone had died taking that exit?”
Unanimously the tone changed with a cry of “well why would someone put a ladder there if it wasn’t safe?”
I explained that sometimes someone will come along with a “quick, temporary fix” which because it “does the job” is left, people then assume that because its there, it must be safe and without knowing it, take the risk, suddenly people are putting themselves in danger every time they use it because of that assumption….
… and THAT is why I am in business today ladies and gentlemen.
So lets talk about why this is unsafe:
First and foremost, ladder access although a safe means of access for a temporary basis (and we will assume despite the break in the roof wall that this is temporary access), you require 3 points of contact during your descent at all times, at the point where you are hanging…. suspended while hunting for the top rung, you only have one, your body and the rooftop.
Secondly, you need to clearly be able to see the area that you will be stepping onto, blindly stepping into a fall hazard is a recipe for disaster, vertigo and dizzy spells can strike the most hardened of roofers and even they would balk at suspending their body over a parapet to blindly step onto a ladder, there is even a heart stopping moment when the poor chap on the roof risks life and limb to peer over the edge as he lowers his body down to see what is going on!
Thirdly the ladder is not fixed, there isn’t a lot stopping the ladder from slipping or being removed as you see here.
How we would resolve this:
Priority one would be to find an alternative route, then if this is not possible, have the correct ladder for the job, at the VERY least; a ladder extended 1m above the parapet so that the user can grip the ladder before the descent to ensure his three points of contact, with the ladder tied off to ensure stability on the descent is by far a better option.