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Recent study proves ladder falls a major cause of worker injury

A study performed by researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that 20 percent of fall-related workplace injuries involve falling not from a secure platform or down stairs, but from a ladder. This is consistent with numbers seen among the general public, since a whopping 43 percent of all fatal fall injuries across America happen when the victim falls off a ladder.

The research team analyzed data from 2011 to come to its conclusions, and their investigation discovered that the majority of workplace ladder fall injuries were in a select number of industries, namely construction, mining, other extraction, maintenance/repair and installation. Interestingly, several groups of people are more likely to be injured in ladder falls than others. These include older workers, men and people of Hispanic descent.

The NIOSH researchers discovered that, in 2011 alone, falls from ladders resulted in:

  • 113 deaths
  • 34,000 injuries severe enough to need emergency room treatment
  • 15,500 injuries that necessitated at least one day off from work

In addition to discovering the true impact that ladder falls can have on American workplaces, the NIOSH team offers some ways that employers can keep their workers safe on and around ladders to hopefully prevent future injury.

For example, keeping "three-point" contact with the ladder, not carrying hand or power tools up the ladder (instead using tool belts or a hand pulley system), requiring employees to undergo training on proper ladder use, and keeping ladder rungs and base supports dry and free of debris will all help decrease the chances of a fall injury occurring. Also, ensuring that ladders are placed on flat surfaces (not stacked on boxes or bags), not exceeding the ladder's load rating, not attempting to tie or fasten ladders together to extend their reach, and paying careful attention to overhead power lines all help keep workplaces safer for ladder users.

Source: Safety.BLR.com, "Researchers reveal deadly facts about workplace ladders," May 27, 2014. 

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