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Working With Ladders: Construction Site Safety

Emergency-signToday, we have a guest post from John M. O’Brien & Associates, a group that tries to raise awareness about the safety issues of working with ladders on construction sites. Here is the post:

Ladders are often the first tool workers choose when performing tasks at elevation. Although taken for granted because they’re so easy to use, ladder-related accidents are the cause of a significant number of workplace accidents. Selecting the wrong type of ladder for the job, setting up the ladder improperly, or not working safely on the ladder are responsible for 20 percent of the fall injuries occurring each year in the U.S.[1] In order to avoid ladder accidents, employers are required to train their employees on how to use ladders, ladder hazards and ladder capacities.

Ladder-related accidents

From cuts, scrapes and bruises to serious injuries, such as broken bones and brain damage, to death, ladder accidents present a significant risk to the user. Ladder use should be approached with caution, ensuring all key practices are followed. It is when recommended safety measures are ignored, that injuries occur. Ladder accidents often result in serious and needless harm for the worker and in the employers being held financially responsible for any accidents caused by their disregard for safety.

These verdicts and settlements obtained by John M. O’Brien & Associates illustrate some of the most common ladder accident scenarios:

Improperly set up ladder

We had a case with a fire alarm technician inspecting the fire alarms at a construction site. The technician was injured after falling from an extension ladder, provided by the construction site supervisor. As a result of falling from the ladder, the technician broke both feet, suffered other orthopedic injuries and a compression fracture in his spine.

Mr. O’Brien argued in court that the supervisor who set up the ladder for the fire alarm technician had done it incorrectly and he had not inspected or maintained the ladder, violating OSHA regulations. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the injured worker. The construction site had to pay him for damages, lost wages, past medical costs, and future medical costs.

This case gives us a few reminders. Many accidents occur as a result of ladders being put on slick or loose surfaces that can contribute to ladder movement. A ladder set up with hazardous surroundings is also a common cause of accidents. Always inspect your ladder before you use it and before you let others use it. Also, train your team and any other visitors who will be using a ladder on how to use it safely.

Selecting the wrong type of ladder for the job

Our client was a worker helping on some repairs when he fell from the ladder to the sidewalk. The ladder had been selected by his co-workers, was too short for the specific task and had not been secured. The worker fell while coming down the ladder, suffered major injuries and had to go to the hospital. He is now unable to work and still suffers from the accident. The court awarded our client $1.1 million dollars, compensation covering medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The safety issues from this case are pretty obvious. Select a ladder that has an adequate height and weight capacity for the specific task and make sure it is secured.

Using a damaged or worn ladder

We had another case for a worker injured in a ladder accident. Our client was at a job site, about to climb a ladder, when he realized it was in bad shape. He told the supervisor who sent him home. When he returned to the job site, he climbed a ladder that appeared safe. However, the spreader bar was cracked and gave way, causing him to fall eight feet to a concrete floor, fracturing his leg, and requiring corrective surgery.

This case is a good reminder of the importance of providing safe equipment and taking off the site ladders that are in bad shape. Loose or missing rungs, split stiles, and spoiled or absent feet are common reasons for damaged ladders causing accidents. In the case we presented, there was an issue with the spreader bar that could have been caught with an inspection.

Workplace safety measures and training for the selection, safe use and care of the most frequently used ladders are meant to protect people working with ladders on construction sites. John M. O’Brien & Associates strongly advises employers to ensure they are putting safety first and protecting their employees against safety hazards while on the job.





Infographic: The Everyday Killer

Ladder Research-digital-ol

Click on the infographic to see it in full size.

Here are the sources for our Everyday Killer Infographic:



  • between 1958 and 2016 there were 2,785 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world, of which 439 were fatal.[4]
  • ^This averages to 7.6 deaths per year in shark attack


  • Each year, there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders. Most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less. Falls from ladders are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites.
  • 365 deaths “ Every day, nearly 2,000 people are injured while using a ladder. Every day, 100 people suffer a long-term or permanent disability. And every day, one person dies. One mother or father, one daughter or son never returns home. We come to work every day to change that. Every single member of our team understands why we come to work every day and why we do what we do: to prevent injuries and save lives.”



  • In the US, between 9% and 10% of those struck die, for an average of 40 to 50 deaths per year (28 in 2008)

Faulty Parachute

Dog Bites





Ladder Safety Month Webinar

100Ladder Safety Month starts on Thursday and will last throughout the month of March. We will keep you posted throughout March with tips for how to be safe on your ladder. We will also share information from the ALI about Ladder Safety Month.

Make sure to tune in to my webinar with OH&S on Thursday. Here’s all the information you need to  tune in!


Topic: Ladder Safety – Plan, Provide & Train to Save Lives

Date: Thursday March 1, 2018

Time: 2 PM (EST) 11 AM (PST)

Register Today at:



To kick off this year’s National Ladder Safety Month, we will be discussing OSHA’s program (Plan, Provide, Train) and how you can apply to ladder safety to prevent injuries and save lives.

When working from heights, employers must plan projects to ensure the job is done safely. Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task.

Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear.

Every worker should be trained on proper set-up and safe use of equipment they use on the job. Employers must train workers in recognizing hazards on the job.

Attendees will learn advanced planning and training techniques and principles. You will also learn about the latest innovations in fall protection, fall prevention and ladder safety from several manufacturers.

Get Your Ladder at the Correct Angle

HyperLite M24 Climb7.1One of the most important steps when setting up an extension ladder is making sure the ladder is at the correct angle. When an extension ladder is being used, it should be at a 75.5 degree angle. A couple of tools have been created to help the user find the correct angle.


NIOSH created an app with great ladder safety tips. The app includes information on how to do a thorough ladder inspection. It also has a way to check the ladder’s angle. You open the app and set your phone an the ladder rung. The app then tells you if you need to have your ladder less or more steep.

Bubble Indicators

Some ladders, including the HyperLite, have bubble indicators that show the operator when the ladder is level. These indicators help the operator know if the ladder needs to be made more or less steep.

The 4-to-1 Rule

If you don’t access to a ladder with bubble indicators or the NIOSH app, the next best thing is to think of the 4-to-1 rule  for ladder safety.  For every four feet of ladder height you are climbing, move the base of the ladder one foot from the wall.

These tips will help you climb safely when using an extension ladder so you can complete your job and not become a statistic.

A Message from the CDC

EHS Today had a great article about ladder safety and why it’s such an important topic.

The article shared a study from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The study found that falls are still the leading cause of unintentional injury mortality nationwide. In fact, 43 percent of fatal falls in the last decade have involved a ladder.


Here is  a graph they shared in the article:


Percent of ladder fall fatalities* and nonfatal ladder fall injuries treated in emergency departments, by fall height (when documented)

Here are some facts, according to the study:

  •  Men and Hispanics had higher rates of fatal and nonfatal LFIs compared with women and non-Hispanic whites and workers of other races/ethnicities.
  •  LFI rates increased with age, except for injuries treated in emergency rooms.
  •  Fatality rates were significantly higher for self-employed workers (0.30 per 100,000 FTE workers) than salary/wage workers (0.06 per 100,000 FTE workers).
  •  Companies with the fewest employees had the highest fatality rates.
  •  The construction industry had the highest LFI rates compared with all other industries.
  •  Across all industries, the highest fatal and nonfatal LFI rates were in the following two occupation groups: construction and extraction (e.g., mining) occupations, followed by installation, maintenance and repair occupations.
  •  Head injuries were implicated in about half of fatal injuries (49 percent), whereas most nonfatal injuries involved the upper and lower extremities for employer-reported and emergency room-treated nonfatal injuries

These numbers are truly staggering. This is why I do what I do, to decrease these numbers and help you return home to your family instead of becoming a statistic. Let’s Break the Statistic Together. Use the hashtag #BreaktheStatistic to join the conversation.

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