Anthony Edward Gower-Smith v Hampshire County Council [2008] LTL 27.6.08

The Claimant, a school caretaker, fell from a ladder during the course of his employment with the Defendant local authority. He was taking down a display from a wall and had placed the stepladder parallel against the wall. The Claimant was standing with both feet on the top platform when he fell. He alleged that he was given inadequate training in the use of stepladders. He had only had one training session, at his induction, and had not been referred to anything in the caretaker’s manual on the use of ladders and no stepladder was used for demonstration.

Held: By placing the ladder alongside the wall instead of at right angles, the force exerted by the Claimant undertaking the task on the top platform caused a sideways movement and resulted in the ladder overturning. The issue in this case was a duty to train for an identified risk (Allison v London Underground [2008] considered). The risk posed by the ladder in the parallel position rather than at right angles was not obvious. In order to discharge their duty under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 reg.9 (1), the Defendant needed to have some degree of focus on the problem, with more of an explanation of the mechanism of overturning the ladder to explain the risks. It would have been helpful to have had a demonstration of the ladder but not necessary. It was however necessary to get the message across to the Claimant in a memorable way – to go into greater detail during the training with a clearer explanation of the mechanism and risks of overturning. The Defendant had failed to do this and the training was deficient. The Claimant’s lack of training was responsible for him failing to place the ladder at right angles. He knew he should not go onto the top platform as this would increase the risk of overturning which must have been obvious to him as the equipment became less stable the higher he climbed. He was therefore held 25% contributory negligent.