Gatland accident demonstrates dangers of working from height… The Grand Slam-winning coach of the Welsh rugby union team, Warren Gatland, sustained multiple fractures to his right heel bone as well as a fracture of his left heel after falling from a ladder at his family beach house in New Zealand.
Gatland had been cleaning the upstairs windows at the beach house in the Bay of Plenty area of New Zealand when he lost his footing on the ladder and fell 10 feet to the concrete surface below. His heels bore the brunt of the impact and the severity of his injuries were caused by the length of the fall and the hardness of the concrete he landed on.
He was taken to hospital where he is currently in leg casts as he awaits an operation to reconstruct his right heel which requires major surgery in order for him to be able to walk properly in the future. His return to Wales has had to be delayed until he is ready to travel. The length of his recovery period is unknown and may very well impact on his ability to return to coaching the Welsh rugby team. His wife cast doubt on the likelihood of Gatland being available for the Wales team Summer tour of Australia, saying:
“We just don’t know how long that will be. He’s hopeful it won’t be too long that he’s off his feet but he is going to be in two casts initially.
“His left foot hopefully will mend quite quickly, because it’s just got one fracture on the heel, but the other one that needs the surgery has a lot more shattered pieces.”
However The Welsh Rugby Union were hopeful that the injuries sustained by Gatland would not prevent him from carrying out his responsibilities during the three test tour in Australia.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: “We all wish Warren a speedy recovery from the injuries he has suffered in this extremely unfortunate accident.
“Knowing Warren as I do I can reassure the Welsh rugby public that he has diligently put the people and processes in place to ensure he stays closely linked to what is happening in the game back here in Wales.
“I have spoken to Warren on a number of occasions since his fall and have told him he will lead the tour to Australia unless anything unforeseen happens in the prognosis for recovery we are working to.”
Falls from height are one of the main causes of workplace fatalities in the UK. As the Gatland case illustrates, even something as simple as cleaning the upstairs windows can lead to serious injury and every safety precaution should be taken when working from heights. 171 workers were fatally injured at work in the UK in 2010/11 as a result of falls from height according to HSE statistics, making it one of the most dangerous environments to work in and one that it is especially important to have safety measures in place for.