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Ladder injuries common, but also preventable

By Tom Johnson, P.T.

Every year, thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed in ladder-related accidents, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And during the last 10 years, the amount of ladder-related injuries has grown by 50 percent.

More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries each year – the most common being bone fractures. Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually, and these deaths account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths.

Half of all ladder-related accidents were caused by people carrying items as they climbed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By understanding the causes of ladder accidents, the vast majority can be prevented. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes that all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided.

Ladder accidents can come from a wide variety of issues, but the following four causes account for the vast majority. If these simple loss prevention tips for each cause are followed, ladder accidents could almost be eliminated.

Selecting the wrong ladder

Like most other jobs, choosing the right tool can make all the difference when it comes to safety.

One thing to consider when selecting an appropriate ladder is the ladder’s weight capacity. Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit, and if the climber exceeds that limit, the ladder could break and cause the user to fall or become injured.

Another consideration when selecting a ladder is the height required for the project. Many injuries occur when ladders are too short for a specific task. Instead of selecting a new ladder for the job, workers place the ladder on something to extend its reach or will stand on the top rung to gain the necessary height.

Both scenarios are extremely dangerous and can result in serious injuries.

Using worn, damaged ladders

Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. Like everything else, ladders have a shelf life. After a couple of years, the stress of being used causes ladders to break down.

Damaged ladders are extremely dangerous as they can easily break and cause serious injuries. To protect yourself from damaged or broken ladders, make sure to thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, repair the ladder to the manufacturer’s specifications or replace it before using it.

Incorrect use of ladders

Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended. Also, do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.

While using a ladder, always maintain three points of contact with the ladder to ensure stability. And never attempt to reach for something while on the ladder. It is much safer to get off the ladder, move it and then climb back up.

Incorrect placement

Make sure that when positioning a ladder, the ground is level and firm. Also, ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.

A good practice to ensure a ladder is secure is to always have a helper support the base while a ladder is being used. If the ladder cannot be held by someone else, make sure it has an appropriate foot to prevent it from slipping. The feet of the ladder can be staked if using a ladder outside and no one is available to support it.