27 September 2023

Painter left paraplegic after over four-metre fall from 'deficient' ladder

| Albert McKnight

Painters from First Class Painting on the unsafe ladder, and after the ladder failed and the painter fell. Photo: Tendered to court.

A man has faced court after one of his employees fell off two ladders that had been strapped together with rope, leaving him paraplegic.

The ACT Magistrates Court heard that, tragically, several years after the incident, 64-year-old Karl Allred’s own daughter was in a car crash with a logging truck, rendering her paraplegic as well.

Allred, of First Class Painting, was in court on Tuesday (26 September) after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to comply with a health and safety duty exposing a person to the risk of death or serious injury.

At the time of the incident, he employed a then-58-year-old Brazilian man to work as a painter who, other than holding a general construction induction card, did not have any other qualifications, court documents say.

Allred’s business was subcontracted to paint a two-storey townhouse complex in Kingston in 2020, and the Brazilian victim was the only person in his painting crew who could speak English.

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The crew were unqualified, uncertified and relied on the victim translating instructions by Allred, who was the foreman and in charge of the site, from English to Portuguese.

On the morning of 9 June 2020, he brought a fall arrest roof kit comprising ropes and harnesses to the site and demonstrated how to use it before leaving to get another ladder.

The victim used this kit to set up what is described in the documents as “a deficient double ladder configuration” by tying the bottom half to a balcony handrail and then tying a top extension to the bottom part of the ladder, overlapping by about five rungs.

two men leaving court

Karl Allred (left) leaves court with his barrister Steven Whybrow on Tuesday (26 September). Photo: Albert McKnight.

The victim, who wasn’t wearing his safety harness, was on the roof and had got onto the ladder to climb back down when the top of the ladder slipped.

He fell onto a balcony roof before falling about four metres onto the ground.

He was taken to hospital and was found to have a spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury. He will be a paraplegic for the rest of his life.

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Prosecutor Sofia Janackovic told the court that Allred’s plea to his offence was on the basis that he failed to provide adequate supervision and training to his workers.

She said the risk would have been easily remedied by him being on-site and informing the workers about working at heights.

The victim suffered “devastating and life-changing injuries”, she said.

Barrister Steven Whybrow said his client had been at the worksite in the morning and it was not expected that he would be there every minute of every day.

He said if Allred had been there, he would have stopped the workers using the ladder system.

Mr Whybrow said it had been a “terrible and tragic” time for the victim but also said it had been a difficult time for his client, partly as his daughter had also become paraplegic after her accident.

The court heard Allred would create a safety video outlining the experience.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker will sentence him on 19 December.

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