Research on Ladder Falls

Falls from heights are the fourth-leading cause of work-related injuries in the United States,[1] so whether you’re a wholesaler or retailer, a manufacturer or a hotelier, falls from ladders can be an exposure for your business. 

Researchers at Liberty Mutual conducted a ladder falls study of 306 injured workers* to find out who’s at greatest risk and when. They collaborated with the Harvard School of Public Health, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Center for Construction Research and Training, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to analyze a broad range of data. 

Their key findings can help you learn how to anticipate and reduce the risk of falls among your employees. 

  1. The three occupational categories with the highest percentages of ladder falls were construction (37.9%); installation, maintenance, and repair (20.7%); and sales and related fields (10%).
  2. More than half of the reported ladder falls occurred when workers were using step or trestle ladders.
  3. The majority of falls from portable ladders occurred at an average height of 7.5 feet.
  4. The most frequently injured body sites were the arm, elbow, or shoulder; the head, neck, or face; and the lower trunk. The main diagnoses were fractures, strains or sprains, and contusions or abrasions.
  5. More than half of all the reported ladder fall injuries took place when the employee was sitting, standing, or working on the ladder.
  6. The most frequently reported activities preceding a fall were installing or hanging an item and performing repairs or other maintenance tasks.
  7. Among those study participants using an extension or straight ladder, nearly 54 percent reported that the ladder moved at the time of the fall.
  8. The risk of fracture was 1.6 times greater when standing and working on the ladder than when climbing up and down.

[1] 2012 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index

*Study used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System – a nationally representative sample of ladder fall injuries from a broad spectrum of industries.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.