09.12.2011

A bad week for ladder falls

This week we have started monitoring serious injuries and falls from ladders and have been astonished at how many there are.

Acknowledging that the vast majority of incidents do not make it into the international news feeds, it would appear the death toll from falls from ladders is not dissimilar to that of road accidents.

In the last four days alone, a lady in Suffolk - UK Rose Andrews, died after her pony knocked over the ladder she was standing on, while working on a barn roof with her husband of 39 years.

A 33 year old man is in a coma, following a serious head injury following a fall from a two metre step ladder at a construction project at Furness College, in Cumbria, UK - the main contractor on site is Eric Wright Construction.

A 45 year old man fell to his death from a ladder, while working as a volunteer on the Potter Place Church, in St Leonard, Maryland on Thursday. The man had been working at a height of around five metres.

A contractor working at the US military academy of West Point suffered a serious head injury on Friday when he fell around three metres from a ladder in the boiler room of Eisenhower Hall. His condition is said to be critical.

These are just a few headline cases in what looks to be too big a sector to cover in our normal manner. The thing with ladders is that they are still a fantastically efficient and cost effective product for working at height, IF the right one is used for the job and IF the person using it knows what they are doing and what not to do

The problem with this is that most of us laugh at the idea of needing training for a product, the use of which appears to be so self-evident. And yet a few solid tips about the do’s and do not’s and what type of ladder to use for specific jobs can turn a person who is almost certain to have an accident, into one who is highly unlikely to have one.
Ladders are one of the most efficient pieces of work at height equipment for some jobs (not particularly this one though)

You could argue – in fact at the risk of slipping into a comment I would – that it is less risky to give a person a self-propelled aerial lift to use without training than giving them a ladder without proper instruction.

Statistics published this week by Rehab UK, a charity that helps people with head injuries, state that 48,000 people a year are treated at hospital Accident and Emergency departments following a ladder accident on domestic, rather than commercial, premises. Of the accidents around 33 percent involved step ladders, 20 percent A-Frame ladders and 17 percent portable leaning ladders.

Oddly this compares to just 30,000 a year in 1991-92. The difference is said to reflect the fact that more homeowners now attempt DIY jobs that involve working at height.

The majority of accidents involving adults, involve falling from the ladder, with 2,300 resulting in serious head injuries. Although the charity says that this number is most likely conservative as some head injuries are internal and do not show up for some time and as such are not recorded in the emergency room.

Another major cause involves adults and children walking into or tripping over ladders that are carelessly left lying around or poorly stored.

While we will not be reporting on every ladder accident we hear of – some readers already complain that there are too many accident reports on Vertikal.Net – we will now be monitoring the sector and will report from time to time on the subject. It is clear to us that there is a case for more training and perhaps some switching to aerial lifts, scaffold towers or other more suitable forms of access equipment.

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