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Stepladder personal injury risk causes controversy

Humberside firefighters have been ordered not to use stepladders to fit smoke alarms after it was revealed they could be contravening health and safety regulations and so would be able to make personal injury compensation claims if hurt.

Fire bosses made the announcement following advice from trade union officials that a firefighter on a stepladder higher than just over 6ft from the floor could be breaking the Health and Safety Executive Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Concerned about the possibility of accident claims, fire chiefs have insisted that their staff do not use any climbing equipment offered by householders while helping to fit smoke alarms. Bosses are currently considering whether to supply platforms rather than ladders to the Humberside firefighters that fit more than 15,000 smoke alarms in private homes every year.

Unions are said to be worried that back, head and neck injuries would be sustained during a fall and a spokesman from the Fire Brigades Union told reporters, "The use of stepladders to fit smoke alarms contravenes working-at-height regulations, which were introduced by the Government.

"We have raised the issue and the Health and Safety Executive has agreed that a review is needed."

Some firefighters have slammed the decision and one, who asked not to be named, said, "Is it me or is this health and safety gone mad? Will we still be able to carry a rescued person down a ladder, or enter a burning building, without the HSE on our back?"

An official Fire Service spokesman defended the decision to take precautions against possible personal injury compensation claims and said, "The Fire Service, just like any other organisation, is not exempt from health and safety legislation."

Statistics concerning the number of firefighters who have received personal injuries in stepladder-related work accidents are not currently available.


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