Mick decided to trim the tall hedge that his wife, Barb, had been asking him to do for a while. It was a hot, humid day, and Mick was tired, but he just wanted to get the job done.
Mick was an active retiree in his 60s, who liked to do things himself. He had run a restumping business for 20 years, so he was used to physical labour and had broken a few bones in his time.
The hedge was more than 3 metres high, so Mick set up a couple of ladders with a plank between them so that he could move along the hedge without going up and down a ladder. He put a few bits of wood under the feet of the ladders to stabilise them.
Mick was leaning his back against the side of the house, electric hedge trimmer in hand, when the ladders gave way underneath him.
Mick fell more than 2 metres to the ground, hitting his head on a brick windowsill on the way down.
Barb heard his fall from the back garden.
Mick’s first thought was that he could have broken his neck. He lay on the ground and tried moving his fingers and toes, thankful when he could.
Barb took Mick to their local GP, who advised her to take Mick to hospital.
When they got there, the doctor said to Mick, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’.
His head had swollen ‘like a bowling ball’ from the hitting it on the brick windowsill.
‘It still plays out in my head: what if…?’ Mick says. ’I was lying in bed for 8 or 10 weeks and it drove me crazy – so what if I’d been bedridden or confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life?’
Mick says he still tries to help around the house, but because of the injuries from his fall, he can’t do everything he used to do. He has trouble lifting – even helping with the groceries – and he struggles to mow the lawns.
Since his fall, Mick has changed his behaviour when it comes to working at height. He bought a new ladder with a platform and safety rails, but he’s still not keen to climb it. His son-in-law comes to help with tasks around the home, and friends have also offered to help out.
‘That’s really hard for men who have done their own work all of their lives. It’s so hard to let go and pay for someone to do it or ask for help.
‘But I would say to anyone of 50 years or older: think twice about going up the ladder.’
Ladder safety tips
- make sure your ladder is safe and right for the job
- work in the right conditions
- set up your ladder safely
- work safely up the ladder
- know when to get help.
Where to get help
- If you or someone you know has had a fall and is seriously injured and needs urgent medical help, call triple zero (000)
- Your – if you have had a fall, for information about safe use of medications and for referrals to a Falls and Mobility Clinic near you
- A – for suitable exercise programs to improve your strength, balance and coordination to reduce your risk of falls