Article: Speak Easy

Bashed By  A Backboard: How to be safer on a ladder with Michael BoturBashed By A Backboard: How to be safer on a ladder with Michael Botur

Nearly 50 per cent of all ACC-claimed injuries happen around the home. It’s true – the ACC describes the home as “the most dangerous place for injuries.”

When I was 16, my friend half-ripped down the basketball backboard on my dad’s garage because he thought hanging off the hoop after a slam dunk was a good idea. Half of the backboard hung askew, and when my dad ordered me to go up a ladder and repair the backboard, I made it worse somehow. Maybe I tried to stand on top of the ladder then lost my balance and had to grab onto the loose backboard for dear life – I can’t remember, because the backboard fell on my head and to this day I have a dented right ear where the cartilage healed badly.

In the last year, over 1.7million claims were made to ACC for accidents. ACC says it cost $2.3b to cover those injuries. It is falls which injure people most significantly around the home, with around 150,000 falls claims per year for fall-related injuries.

Some stats to make you think deeply:

Falling from a ladder is the most expensive and most damaging injury around the home. On three day weekends such as Easter, 170 ladder-related injury claims, costing $300,000, can be expected, if last year’s stats are anything to go by. In total, you can expect 15,000 active ladder-related claims in any year. 

Key messages about not extending yourself too far on a ladder are:

• Do not stand on the top step of a stepladder
• If a ladder has broken or loose parts or bits missing, don’t use it.
• Make sure the ladder is secure, has stable footing on firm ground, and is on the correct angle from the wall. Get a mate or partner to hold the ladder for added security.
• Move it regularly to avoid over-reaching; don’t hang tools from the rungs.
• Avoid over-reaching sideways just to reach that last centimetre of the wall your painting or that last branch you are pruning.
• Avoid climbing higher than the third step from the top of a straight ladder
• Avoid having tools or paint cans resting on the steps or hanging from the rungs.
• Avoid carrying heavy or unstable items up the ladder
• Always have three points of contact with the ladder (two feet, one hand)
• Even if your dad is mad and he forces you to fix a backboard which you didn’t
break, ask him to hold the ladder for you.

The top five most preventable injuries I have received while working around the house include:

• Got carpal tunnel damage / aching wrist from hammering 1000 nails into 250 fence palings
• A mosquito bite on my arm got infected and cellulitis began creeping up my arm because I left standing water in the backyard for mosquitoes to breed in
• I tried to up-end a 40 kilo paving stone without anyone to help lift it. It pushed back down and smashed against my knee, tearing open the skin and leaving a bad bruise.
• A post hole borer supposedly designed for one person kicked back and twisted my arms badly
• I almost crashed a ride-on lawnmower when I couldn’t make it stop on what I thought was a fairly gentle 20 degree slope. It came to rest on the edge of a 90 degree slope – ie. a small cliff.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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