On construction sites, ladders are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment. Each year, more than 4,000 U.S. construction workers suffer serious injuries from ladder falls, and 70 workers die from their injuries.
Ladders Cause Fatal Falls
Construction sites are filled with all types of equipment including tractors, bulldozers, concrete mixers, power tools, hand tools, and scaffolding, but one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment is one of the simplest – a ladder. Within the construction industry, falls from ladders are the leading cause of injuries and deaths to workers, accounting for one out of every 18 injuries.
Ladders are used extensively on construction sites by roofers, painters, electricians, window installers, tree trimmers, and various other workers who need to reach certain heights. Working 10 to 30 feet off the ground on a ladder is always risky, but when safety is ignored risks can prove to be fatal. Falls from ladders commonly occur from:
- Setting the ladder up improperly
- Using the wrong type of ladder
- Improperly mounting or dismounting the ladder
- Missing rungs while climbing or descending
- Losing balance
- Over-reaching for tools and objects
Most construction site falls from ladders happen when workers are climbing or descending. To reduce the risk of falls, ladders should be inspected for safety, positioned at a proper angle, and secured at the top and bottom prior to climbing. If a worker’s shoes or the ladder rungs contain mud, dirt, or greasy substances, surfaces should be cleaned before getting on the ladder. Workers should never exceed the ladder’s weight capacity, climb to the top rung, or climb with tools or other items in their hands. When working near power lines, ladders should be positioned at least 10 feet away. Falls into overhead power lines are a frequent source of fatal injuries for construction workers.
According to new data from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), 42 percent of construction fatalities are caused by falls, and more than half of the workers killed have no access to fall protection equipment. Workers with the highest injury rates from lack of protection equipment work for residential building contractors or as independent contractors in roofing, siding, and painting, and over half of the falls occur from 30 feet or higher. To prevent falls, OSHA recommends that all workers on construction sites should be properly trained on safe set-up and use of ladders and protection equipment.