Death after fall from ladder prompts warning

A Dunedin man's death after he fell from a ladder has prompted a safety warning by Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar.

Charles Proctor (80) died at Dunedin Hospital on December 31 last year, having fallen from a ladder while cleaning windows at his Musselburgh Rise house the previous evening. In his formal findings, Mr Crerar said the actions by Mr Proctor in using the ladder were in the circumstances unwise and proved unsafe.

He recommended the use of ladder safety tips be drawn to the public's attention and that copies of his findings be forwarded to the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Department of Labour.

ACC data showed more than 4000 New Zealanders suffered serious injuries after falling from ladders in the home each year, and in 2011 more than 260,000 claims were lodged with the organisation in respect of falls in and around the home.

Mr Crerar said the lesson to be learned from Mr Proctor's death was that those using ladders must exercise an appropriate degree of care.

''His death was a tragedy but it would be a further tragedy if the community could not learn from the circumstances,'' Mr Crerar said.

On December 30 last year, Mr Proctor's daughter called at his home after he failed to show up for an organised dinner.

She found him sitting in a chair. He had vomited on himself and was bleeding and confused.

A ladder and one of Mr Proctor's shoes was lying on the ground outside the house.

Mr Proctor was taken to Dunedin Hospital where he was found to have a fractured skull, internal bleeding and other injuries which collectively were so extensive only palliative care was appropriate, Mr Crerar's findings stated.

Mr Proctor died in hospital about 19 hours after being admitted.

It was not known whether he fainted or had a heart attack while up the ladder, or if it slipped.

Mr Crerar said ladders should be checked before use, never used if broken or missing pieces, and set on firm, even ground.


Aim higher

"Mr Crerar said the actions by Mr Proctor in using the ladder were in the circumstances unwise and proved unsafe." Then towards the end of the article "It was not known whether he fainted or had a heart attack while up the ladder, or if it slipped."

There is an anti-ladder nanny movement in full swing, resulting in increased costs and decreased freedom to get on with jobs in the most efficient manner. In some cases the dire warnings may be justified. In others the events are, like throwing petrol on the barbie, down to individual incompetence for which there is no remedy other than compulsory, intensive, non-academic, 100% fieldwork, courses in applied physics. The objective should be to have a Kiwi culture like the myth. Instead of banning and regulating one activity after another we should set our sights on becoming able to competently do more and more and more, like our settler forebears had to. That way lies fitness, independence and pride.

In other cases "accidents" are down to the well-known sh*t-happens factor, for all that OSH, ACC and insurance companies try to find excuses why it went extinct 25 years ago.

There is a third category, illustrated in the second of the passages I quote from the article. Sometimes people have a health event while up a ladder, or driving a car, or standing on the doorstep, or watching Trackside - or reading the ODT. If a heart attack is on your body's secret agenda it's going to happen some time no matter how assiduously you avoid ladders.

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