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How a fall from a ladder resulted in eight days in hospital and six months in a wheelchair. A window cleaner tells his story.

Malcolm Bowers

IT WAS a bright, dry Winter’s day in February 1970 when just married self-employed window cleaner Malcolm Bowers, then 21, fell 4.5 metres from a ladder fracturing both heel bones and his left leg. As a result, 50 years later, he still suffers from frequent pain in his ankles, knees and hips.

Malcolm takes up the story: “My round was based in Allerton, Bradford, and included a public house which literally became my downfall. I was cleaning the upstairs windows when I made a serious mistake.

The pub was on the roadside with a wide, sloping pavement and I was using wedges to level the ladder. I then made the grave error of leaning sideways and overreaching, causing the ladder to spin on its one stable stile, throwing me off sideways. I landed in an upright position collapsing to the ground on impact. Fortunately a doctor was passing by who attended to me and rang for an ambulance.

I live with the consequences of the fall to this day some 50 years on. 20 years after the accident I started to experience pain in my hips and knees which, upon examination, showed that the problem was caused by my original heel and ankle injuries. For many years now I have worn corrective shoes with special insoles to correct my leg, knee and hip geometry. Even so, I still have very limited ankle movement and it is still difficult and painful to walk on unlevel or uneven ground.

I never went back to my old job and after a total of eight months off work – and some very tough times financially – I took a job as a scaffold and access sales representative, going on to jointly form Access Rental Ltd in 1978, AFI in 1998 and Lifterz in 2006.”

Says Malcolm: “I have lived with the consequences of that day all my life. It’s so easy to cut corners and take short cuts, but the consequences can be huge and last a lifetime.”

For advice and guidance on the safe use of ladders and stepladders visit the Ladder Association.

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