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3 Simple Steps to Reduce Ladder Falls in Construction

By  Bob White, ROII Safety Services Director


Injuries due to falls continue to plague the construction industry. While the median claim cost for a fall from a roof is much higher, falls from ladders were four times higher in frequency. In fact, they are the leading cause of fall injuries. 

Ladder-related injuries cost the ROII Insurance pool over $3.6 million in claim costs alone in the 2020-2021 plan year. Many of these injuries devastated workers and their families.

Every year, DOSH Safety Inspectors fine employers hundreds of thousands of dollars in ladder safety violations. Ladder use and fall protection violations make Labor and Industries’ Top 10 Safety Violation list every year.

Another factor adding to the problem is an aging workforce in the industry. Over one-third of the fatalities in a 15-year study were workers 50 years of age or older. 

Old dogs and new tricks

Construction companies should consider placing a greater emphasis on ladder safety and fall protection. 

Often older workers can become set in their ways with bad habits around personal safety on the jobsite. 

No one wants to see a longtime friend and employee work all their lives only to have a ladder slip out from under them causing a tragic accident. 

Having a companywide emphasis over a period of weeks can help break old habits and create better awareness.
 

3 Simple Ladder Safety Steps

1. Make sure workers take time to inspect ladders before each use. Fiberglass ladders can become brittle over time due to age, sun damage or vibration and jarring on unpadded truck ladder racks. Be sure to destroy damaged or bent ladders or take them out of service so they’re not accessible to employees.

2. Always make sure to secure the ladder. Plan for the worst. Often you can save a life by training a person to pause and consider the element of safety. Taking a second to consider if the ladder is in a secure position at the top and bottom and set up at the right angle, (one foot back for every four feet high), can mean the difference between life and death.

3. Packing a load up a ladder without three points of contact at all times on ladder rungs is not only a recipe for a fall, but also a red flag to the DOSH inspector several blocks away observing the jobsite. State law does not allow workers to carry materials while ascending or descending a ladder unless they have both hands free. 

A small amount of safety with some repetition and consistency can help change old habits and save lives. 

For more information, check out L&I’s ladder resource page:
https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-topics/search-by-topic?query=ladders

ROII participants already receive Weekly Safety Topic emails. To join the list, reach out to ROII Safety Services Director Bob White at (360) 352-7800 ext. 109 or bobw@biaw.com.

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