The importance of fall prevention and ladder safety on the job

Employers are tasked with providing fall protection and safety training for workers.

A recent study performed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that nearly half - 43 percent - of all fatal fall injuries in the country involve ladders. Twenty percent of those fatal ladder-related falls happen on the job. Employees in several industries are at higher risk for suffering injury when falling from ladders, including construction workers, those involved in mining/extraction, telecommunications equipment maintenance crews, and workers specializing in installation or repair.

Insufficient regulation is not the problem

The tragic part of this data is that these fatal fall injuries occur in spite of federal and state-level laws requiring workplace fall prevention and safety measures. At the federal level, there are myriad regulations promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that require employers to establish workplace fall prevention policies, protect workers from open hazards like holes and undergo rigorous safety training, particularly for workers who will be working on ladders, on scaffolds or more than a few feet off the ground.

For example, employers must provide railings and toe guards for scaffolds, catwalks and raised platforms, and they must take steps to prevent workers from coming into contact with hazards like open holes, vats, conveyor belts and other dangers below them. In addition, employers must provide safety equipment and workplace injury prevention training to workers who will be performing job duties on ladders, including instruction on proper ladder placement (never putting a ladder on an unstable surface like a box or stair), the importance of maintaining three-point contact with the ladder (two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand) at all times and ensuring that employees don't violate a ladder's maximum weight or height restrictions.

Furthermore, it is vital that employees be made aware of common hazardous situations that can result in ladder-related injuries, including:

  • Falling from the ladder if its surfaces become wet or slick
  • Failing to use safety harnesses when appropriate
  • Coming into contact with overhead power lines
  • Moving a ladder with a person on it
  • Leaning too far beside or away from the ladder
  • Tying or otherwise binding two ladders together to make a longer one
  • Using a ladder as a horizontal platform when it isn't specifically designed to function as such (as some convertible, specialty ladders are)

As you can see, there are myriad ways in which a fall injury can happen on the job; heights make even relatively simple tasks inherently more dangerous. Regardless of the circumstances of the injury, though, if you have been injured in a ladder fall while on the job, you might be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. In addition, should someone other than your employer be ultimately responsible for causing your injuries, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against that person or entity. For the answers to all of your workplace injury-related questions, seek the advice of a work comp attorney in your area.

Keywords: Ladder fall, scaffolding fall, workplace injury, on-the-job injury, work comp, workers' compensation, construction accident