Council’s ladder ban sparks £1.4million bill to change light bulbs

busin-preventableCOUNCIL bright sparks banned maintenance workers from using ladders – then got a blinding £1.4million bill for changing dud light bulbs.

Kier Stoke repairs more than 20,000 homes and over 500 municipal buildings for Stoke-on-Trent’s city council. However, since the council banned ladders on health and safety grounds, the contractor needs to erect scaffolding for even simple, routine tasks.

In 2008/2009 Kier Stoke – a joint venture company between the council and Kier Building Maintenance – charged £423,000 for scaffolding. Nevertheless, since last year’s ladder ban, taxpayers have had to fork out £1.4million.

It costs £35 a day to erect scaffolding at a property with the structures remaining for an average of eight days. Now council officials are trying to persuade Kier to use cheaper platform towers instead.

Francis Camilleri Sales Manager at ladder manufacturers TB Davies said, “Depending on the location of the light fitting site engineers should have been provided adequate training to allow them to assess the risks and select a suitable means of access. A more detailed investigation would most likely reveal that traditional or glass fibre step ladders remain the most suitable and safest solution to this problem.”

City Independents deputy leader Councillor Dave Conway, said, “I’ve warned my wife that if the bathroom light goes we’ll have to put scaffolding up. Its health and safety gone mad.”

Community Voice Councillor Mike Barnes added, “There are pensioners who need a new security light who have to wait six months because scaffolding is needed.”

After a three-week wait for his new security light bulb, tenant David Burton, 37, of Blurton, Staffs, changed it himself. He said, “The council said they’d have to use scaffolding. But if I stood on tiptoes, I could reach it. In the end I bought a bulb and changed it myself and it works fine.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are working with Kier to reduce this cost by introducing platform towers.”

Francis Camilleri added, “Even if steps are not suitable then there are many podium or combination type products that are perfectly suited to this type of application. Instead of issuing blanket bans the council should consider allowing Kier to invest in staff training to enable decisions of this nature to be taken on a site-by-site basis.”

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