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Ladder Accidents Both Common and Expensive, Part 1


Ladder accidents are among the most common causes of construction-related injuries in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ladder falls accounted for 113 work fatalities in 2011, or about 15 percent of the total number of occupational fatalities. Falls from ladders were 43 percent of all fatal fall injuries between 2001 and 2011. An additional 34,000 non-fatal ladder injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2011. Of these, 15,500 injuries ladder-related injuries resulted in at least one lost workday.

The situation is similar in the New York City area. According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), around 50 workers are killed by ladder falls each year in the New York City area. Countless others are injured, with leg fractures being the most common type of injury.

A quick Google search for news about ladder accidents shows how common they are:

  • In February, a former school superintendent died after falling from a home ladder near Albany.
  • A 44-year-old construction worker died in March after falling around 30 feet from a ladder in Brooklyn.
  • On June 22, a man was airlifted to the hospital after falling at least 15 feet from a ladder on Long Island.

The media has also reported on many recent ladder accidents outside New York, including in Salt Lake City, Mason, Ohio, (near Cincinnati) and Pittsburgh.

In addition to costing lives, ladder falls have a significant financial impact on the economy. The cost of ladder injuries and fatalities is enormous. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ladder injuries and deaths cost the United States at least $24 billion.

What causes these falls? According to the CPSC, 50 percent of all ladder-related accidents were the result of carrying items while climbing a ladder. Other ladder accidents result from using the wrong type of ladder for the job, using a worn or damaged ladder and placing a ladder on an uneven surface. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 30 percent of ladder falls were the result of wearing wet, greasy or oily shoes. An astounding 73 percent had not been trained or provided written instructions in the use of ladders.

Because of the financial and personal consequences of ladder falls, a variety of agencies work to educate workers and the general public about the safe use of ladders. Our next post about ladder falls will discuss safety tips offered by government agencies and industry organizations.