By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia
A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed. By understanding the causes of ladder accidents the vast majority could be prevented.
- More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year
- Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually
- These deaths account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths
- OSHA believes that 100 percent of all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided
- Over the last 10 years, the number of ladder-related injuries has increased 50 percent
- According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed
- The most common type of ladder-related injury, with 32 percen, is fractures
Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can occur as a result of 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, then ladder accidents could almost be eliminated.
1. Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder
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. There are three basic types of ladders:
- Type III — Household, light duty, load capacity of 200 lbs.
- Type II — Commercial, medium duty, load capacity of 225 lbs.
- Type I — Industrial, heavy-duty, load capacity of 250 lbs.
- For extra-heavy duty work, such as roofing and construction, there is the Type IA with a 300-lb. rating. The strongest type of ladder is the Type IIA (holding 375 lbs.) for special duty, such as heavy industrial construction work.
2. Using Worn or Damaged Ladders
Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. Thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.
3. 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 it to be used for. Important use tips include the following:
- Do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.
- Maintain three points of contact (feet and hands) at all times.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes.
- Do not carry anything while climbing a ladder.
- No more than one person on ladder at a time.
- Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
- Do not climb higher than the third rung on extension ladders or the second rung on stepladders.
- Never try to move a ladder while standing on it.
4. Incorrect Placement of Ladders
Follow these tips for correct placement of ladders.
- Place the ladder on level and firm ground.
- Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
- If possible, have a helper support the base while using a ladder.
- The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder.
- Do not use a ladder that is too short for the necessary height.
- Do not place the ladder on something to extend its reach.
- Use a 1:4 ratio in placement of the ladder: Place the ladder base 1 ft away from the surface it is leaning against for every 4 ft of height to the point where the ladder contacts at the top.