Shocking Injury to Molly Meldrum a Stark Warning on Risk of Using Ladders
We men in particular think we are indestructible and that it will never happen to us. Over the years, I have seen a number of friends and colleagues get badly injured from falling off ladders. Luckily, no one has been killed but there have been some very close calls.
One example was a claims officer who was trimming a tree from a ladder when he fell and was impaled on a star picket. Another cut his leg badly with a chainsaw when his ladder slipped. I have also investigated many serious injuries involving ladders where people were trying to sue the ladder manufacturer. Most, but not all, involved middle-aged men, often overweight and or reaching too far from the ladder.
In my own case, I have been on ladders my entire life. My father was a builder (brick layer) and I was up and down ladders and scaffolding since as far back as I can remember. When I got married, my wife and I decided to build our own home and so for 10 years of weekends we, along with help from brothers from both sides and my father in law, were up a ladder building, painting and decorating our first home. We never had one incident that I can recall.
Since then I have renovated three further homes and three offices along with the typical home maintenance that includes cleaning out the gutters and changing a light bulb again with no incident.
Two years ago, my son Steve purchased a Californian bungalow only a few doors down from me and I offered to help him install a burglar alarm. I was up a ladder at the front of the house connecting the siren and blue light to the system. My ladder was leaning up against a brick paraphet above the garage. A neighbour from across the road shouted out that my work was causing his alarm to sound off and as I twisted around to tell thim that that was physically impossible as we had no power to our system and did not have a remote switch, the top course of bricks on the parapet moved and the ladder slipped out from under me. I feel about 2.5 metres with my back sliding down the wall and landing in a seated position.
Other than a few grazes I was fine but then 3 bricks from the paraphet fell on top of me. One grazed the left side of my head and hit my left shoulder. one hit my right leg on the inner thigh and the other hit me edge side on the right side of my head. This last one nearly knocked me out.
The worst part of the whole incident was the look of horror and concern on the faces of the neighbour, my son and soon after my wife and daughter. I was taken to the Alfred Hospital and had 8 staples in my head. The service I had was first class and I am sure that Molly is getting the best of treatment.
I consider myself very lucky with this accident. If I had a softer skull or the brick had hit me on the corner it may have done a lot more damage. I also wonder what would have happened if my head was forward and it had hit be across the back of the neck.
The lessons learned were that I should have checked the brickwork against which I had sat the ladder and secondly, I should have had someone on the ground supporting the ladder. If there had been the ladder would most likely only fallen at the top less than 100mm and the base would not have slipped out from under me as it did.
The reality is that you do not have to fall far off a ladder to be seriously injured: 1–2 metres can be enough.
At least 83 Australians, mainly men, have died after falling from a ladder over the past five years (Source: WorkCover Victoria). Thousands more have been seriously injured while using a ladder for home repairs and renovations, as well as gardening tasks.
Men at, or nearing, retirement age are in the highest risk category for this type of accident.
I have now purchased myself a work platform rather than risk a ladder. I share this with my family, work colleagues and friends. A small price to pay to stay safe and healthy. I really do not want to see any of my staff or family up a ladder. Having proved I am not the superman of my youth, I will not be rushing up one again soon.
I attach a brochure issued by WorkCover Victoria on ladder safety in the hope it may just save you or someone you know from serious injury or worse.
I am sure you join me in wishing the living legend that is Molly Meldrum a speedy and full recovery.