It's easy to see how someone might underestimate the dangers of ladders. While we're all aware of the serious injuries a fall may cause, their simplicity makes them seem safer than they actually are. A worker is much more likely to go through extended safety precautions when using a powerful industrial vehicle such as a bulldozer than they would when using a ladder. But it's important that all employees are taught to go through the necessary safety checklist before use. OSHA recommends the following steps:
- Read and follow all labels/markings.
- Avoid electrical hazards
- Always inspect prior to use.
- Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
- Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
- Check for and remove any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- Do not use the top step/rung as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
- Use only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
- Do not place on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on it.
- An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support.
- Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
- The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).
- A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
- Do not exceed the maximum load rating.
In 2015, falls accounted for nearly 39% of construction worker fatalities. A study by FACS found that falls from greater height distances and falls onto concrete correlated with more severe injuries. Workers in nonunion environments and environments with poor safety scores are also at an increased risk of falls. Finally, the study found that "most ladder injuries are due to safety precautions and regulations not being observed."
Broken Bones & Sprains
Many ladder fall victims suffer from broken bones and sprains. Specifically, the arms and legs are the most commonly affected regions for breaks and sprains. Contusions, lacerations, and abrasions are also common in fall victims.
Spinal Cord Injuries
28.5% of spinal cord injuries are caused by falls. When you fall from a high distance and land on your back (especially on concrete), the impact can be devastating. Severe spinal cord injuries often lead to nerve damage and either partial or full paralysis.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Many falls end with a violent head-to-ground impact, which can cause traumatic brain injuries. Such injuries are even more pronounced if a proper hard hat was not worn. Victims often suffered from reduced cognitive abilities for the rest of their lives.
Do I Have A Case?
These cases are complex and require a great deal of research and evidence gathering. Civil court is often the only recourse injured workers have if they want to receive the compensation they need to recover as fully as possible. If you're curious about your options beyond Workers' Compensation, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your accident.