New York Ladder and Stair Accident Prevention Guide
Falls are a leading cause of injury and death among construction workers. Ladders and stairways are critical for navigating job sites — yet, if poorly constructed, inadequately maintained or misused, they can become sources of danger.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly one-third of fall-related deaths involve ladders or stairways. OSHA also reports that roughly 25,000 construction workers are injured in these falls each year. Half of those injuries require time away from work.
What Safety Regulations Require
The law recognizes that employers and site managers play a big role in promoting work-site safety. Regulations at the federal, state and local levels provide strict standards such as:
- Minimum weight-bearing capacity for ladders
- Optimal spacing for ladder rungs (so they’re not too close together or too far apart)
- Sufficient vertical clearance between stairways or ladders and overhead obstacles
- Mandatory ladder safety devices, lifelines and/or rest platforms for longer ladders, depending on their length and setup
- Sufficient handrails, midrails and other guardrails for stairways
- Uniform tread width and riser height for stairs
Employers, general contractors, property owners and developers are responsible for applying and enforcing the above safety regulations. It is their legal responsibility to provide construction workers with a safe place to do their job. However, if you suspect something isn’t right — or if a stairway or ladder doesn’t seem safe — speak up. Under many provisions of federal and state law, you can’t be penalized for raising safety concerns.
What You Can Do To Stay Safe
While you don’t necessarily have control over how ladders and stairways are set up, you do have control over how you use them. Follow these tips to stay safe on the job:
- Choose the right ladder for the work at hand. Ensure that it’s long enough to reach the work area without forcing you to lean or shift your weight dangerously.
- Check the ladder’s maximum load capacity, and never exceed its weight limit. (Be sure to take any tools into account when calculating weight.)
- Know how to correctly set up each type of ladder. For straight and extension ladders, make sure they’re set up at the right angle (75 degrees from the ground with the horizontal distance between the feet and top of the ladder measuring one-quarter of the ladder’s total working length).
- Check that the ladder’s spreader bars and any locking mechanisms are securely engaged.
- Set up the ladder on a stable, flat surface. Never place objects under the ladder’s legs to prop it up, and don’t set up a ladder so that it wobbles on uneven flooring.
- At all times, maintain three points of contact with the ladder: either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.
- Never carry tools, supplies or other objects when going up or down ladders.
- Balance your weight evenly between both rails. Don’t lean away from the ladder to perform work.
- Always face toward the ladder when going up or down.
- Wear sturdy footwear with nonskid treads.
- Ensure that extension ladders are resting on a support point at least 3 feet below the top of the ladder.
- Never stand on the top rung of a ladder.
- Have the ladder periodically checked to identify such potential hazards as:
- Structural damage, missing rungs, steps or cleats, split or bent side rails
- Grease, dirt or slippery substances
- Paint or stickers that may hide possible defects
- Place “Do Not Use” tags on ladders that are damaged or need to be repaired.
- Don’t use ladders with metallic components near electrical wires or power lines.
- Eliminate hazardous objects and debris from stairways and walkways.
- Clean up slippery conditions on stairways and walkways immediately.
- Use handrails when traversing stairs.
Injured in a Ladder or Stairway Accident?
If you were injured (or lost a loved one) in a work-related fall, don’t rely on your employer to go to bat for you. Enlist a ladder accident attorney who will look out for your interests alone.
The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have decades of experience helping people like you obtain the financial recovery they deserve. Our results number in the billions. These success stories include:
- A $5.9 million settlement on behalf of a New York City union bricklayer who suffered multiple injuries after falling off a ladder
- A $5.5 million settlement on behalf of an electrician who fell off an extension ladder, resulting in a skull fracture and other significant injuries
- A $5 million settlement on behalf of a worker who fell 12 feet when a ladder slipped out from under him