Ladders are part of the job in construction work. People use them day in and day out without mishap. But it takes just one shortcut, misstep or mistake for a serious ladder accident to happen.
Construction workers, painters and others who use fixed or movable ladders should be familiar with the common causes of ladder and scaffolding accidents and how to avoid dangerous situations.
More people are getting hurt by ladders
Every year 700 workers are killed by falls from ladders and other heights, and more than 90,000 Americans receive emergency room treatment for ladder-related injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that ladder injuries have increased by half in the last 10 years. But OSHA believes that 100 percent of ladder accidents can be prevented through proper training and attention to equipment.
Preventing the 4 common types of ladder accidents
What causes ladder injuries?
Using the wrong type of ladder for the job. This is a common mistake. People assume any ladder is good enough. Make sure it is rated to handle the weight and is tall enough for the intended purpose. The wrong ladder can buckle or shift.
Using a defective or damaged ladder. It's always a good idea to inspect a ladder before taking your first step. Never use a ladder than has been compromised, such as as a wooden ladder with cracked or rotted rungs, or an aluminum ladder where any part is bent, crimped or missing rivets.
Improper use. Failing to use the ladder in the correct way – such as maintaining three points of contact – causes many injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 50 percent of all ladder accidents involve individuals carrying items while they climbed. If the ladder says not to stand on the last step (or the top stop), don’t do it. Never reach sideways; take the time to climb down and move the ladder.
Improper placement. A ladder should always be on solid ground, level and firmly placed. There is never a time when you should break this rule, as it's one of the top causes of ladder accidents. Never put a ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked or blocked. Ideally, there should be someone at the base of the ladder to hold it steady.
Everyone on the construction site should take note of when a ladder is in use. Failure to take precautions could lead the ladder to be bumped while someone is on it.
Work-related ladder accidents are automatically covered by workers’ compensation, regardless of fault. Under New York labor law (Section 240) property owners can also be liable for ladder and scaffolding falls. Hopefully it never comes to that.
Source: West Bend Insurance "Ladder Safety"