ladder accident robert barr

Robert Barr and his family

One of the things we as safety professionals talk about is how every person who falls from a ladder is a father, brother, husband and friend. It is important to humanize statistics so people are reminded that the one person who dies from a ladder accident each day could be their friend or relative.

The following story, posted on July 4, 2014, happened in New Zealand and is a somber reminder that workplace injuries impact families:

Freak Ladder Accident

A Hawke’s Bay builder who accidentally shot himself in the chest with a nail gun pulled out the nail himself and walked onto a rescue helicopter, but later died from his injuries.

Mr. Barr 31, died early yesterday morning after a freak accident on a rural property in Waipukurau, when a nail gun fired while he was climbing down a ladder.

A builder by trade, Mr Lepelaars, a local community member and friend of Mr. Barr, said the manner of Mr. Barr’s death had rocked the small community.

“I’ve only heard what people have told me but it’s from a really good source. He came down off a ladder, slipped and the nail gun hit him on the shoulder.

“He realised what he had done, walked outside and was sitting on a trailer and managed to pull the nail out.”

Mr. Lepelaars said Mr. Barr was still in good spirits and even walked to the Lowe Corporation Helicopter which transported him to the hospital.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

What We Can Learn

While we don’t know all the details from the accident, we can still use this accident as a lesson. Mr. Barr slipped either as he was descending the ladder or shortly after getting off. In order to prevent slipping, make sure your team is reminded to wipe down the ladder, making sure to remove any slippery substances. In addition, make sure the area surrounding the ladder is cleared to prevent any slipping or tripping hazards.

Next, we have the issue of the nail gun. It sounds like he was carrying the gun and then it went off when he fell. In order to keep hands free when climbing up and down a ladder, it is suggested to keep supplies in a pouch or holster.

If these two simple precautions would have been followed, the story might have a different, less tragic ending. My heart goes out to this man’s family and friends. Please do not let this happen to someone on your team.

This story is a tragic reminder of the importance of being safe on ladders and properly educating your team on the proper safety precautions.