Ladder falls account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths. This is a startling figure when you realize that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes that nearly all ladder deaths could be prevented with proper safety training. To go along with comprehensive safety training, there are some ladder manufacturers who are recommending changes to construction ladders that could help eliminate construction injuries involving ladders completely.
Facts And Figures About Ladder Falls
While falls make up a big part of the accidents that occur with ladders, the majority of ladder accidents in construction occur when objects taken up on ladders fall to the ground unexpectedly. As a matter of fact, 50 percent of all ladder accidents occur when someone is carrying objects up on a ladder. While there are safe ways to haul items up a ladder, not every construction company has policies that highlight ladder safety.
In the past decade, the rise in the amount of construction work has helped to create a rise in ladder accidents. It is estimated that the number of ladder accidents, in general, has increased by 50 percent over the past 10 years. Each year 90,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for ladder falls, and an average of 700 people a year die. As construction activity increases, these numbers are inevitably going to increase as well unless something is done.
Training Is Critical To Prevent Ladder Accidents
While falling objects pose a threat, ladder falls remain a primary concern among construction companies. The reason falls are such a concern is because a fall results from the negligence of the user. When it comes to job site safety, companies can mandate that materials and equipment cannot be moved using ladders. But getting workers to engage in safe ladder usage habits is a much different problem.
The trend in construction as of late has seen a significant increase in ladder safety training that includes job-specific training. One of the issues in construction is that ladders are sometimes used for tasks that they were not designed for. For example, using a ladder as a bridge across a gap in a building is a very bad idea. The new safety training being administered to construction workers not only points out dangerous activity, but it also explains why the activity is prohibited.
In the past, ladder training has been very one-dimensional and has left out reasons for certain policies. The new training includes explanations of ladder safety rules, defining the proper way to use a ladder, and an explicit explanation of ladder policies. In the past, accidents happened simply because workers were not comprehensively trained on the consequences of their actions. The new comprehensive training is looking to change all of that.
Ladder Manufacturers Are Helping Out With Safety Problems
For a very long time, it was thought that the design of the average ladder was as durable as the design of a comb. After thousands of years, combs have not changed very much in their design, but the materials being used are different. Right now, the primary material being used to make construction ladders is aluminum, and there are some ladder manufacturers who are suggesting that aluminum could be one of the issues affecting ladder safety.
An aluminum ladder conducts electricity very well, and that can be a problem on a job site where lightning occurs, or where electrical currents are running. All it would take is one live wire to touch an aluminum ladder and the worker or workers on that ladder would be hard pressed to escape that situation with their lives.
To help solve this problem, some ladder manufacturers have started to offer ladders made from fiberglass. As a building material, fiberglass is just as resilient in bad weather as aluminum. When manufactured properly, a fiberglass ladder can be just as durable and reliable as a ladder made from aluminum. The benefit is that fiberglass does not conduct electricity under any circumstances, and that could help to prevent many of the ladder injuries and deaths that occur each year.
Another challenge when it comes to using ladders made of aluminum is using the ladders at night on a busy construction site. Despite its shiny metallic look, aluminum does not reflect light very well and that can leave workers on ladders at night exposed to a variety of dangers. The simple remedy to this problem as suggested by manufacturers is to wrap construction ladders in reflective tape. The idea that reflective ladders reduce construction injuries could prompt manufacturers to start offering reflective ladders. Until then, utilizing reflective tape to protect workers on ladders at night is an idea ladder manufacturers support.
The Safety Quest Continues
Ladder safety is not an issue that is being ignored by the construction industry or the public at large. The American Ladder Institute sponsors an annual “Ladder Safety Month” initiative designed to heighten awareness for ladder safety. The goals of the program are to increase safety awareness and decrease ladder accidents, and the ALI does so by offering a wide variety of training resources to be used by every person and entity that utilizes ladders.
OSHA offers an online resource contractors can use to identify ladder safety issues and solve them. Some of the primary topics discussed are:
- Making sure all ladders are in safe working condition
- The proper way to set-up a ladder
- The correct uses for ladder rungs and the top of a ladder
- Advice on how to safely use multiple ladders for a single application
In this resource, OSHA outlines the safest ways to use wooden ladders and how to properly secure ladders on slippery surfaces. Wooden ladders that are no longer safe for use and improper use of ladders on slick surfaces are two of the more common reasons for ladder accidents in construction. These are also good examples of what OSHA means when it says that nearly all ladder accidents can be prevented with the right kind of information and training.
Construction Workers Dying From Ladder Accidents
In New York City from 1996 to 2006, 14 construction workers died as a result of ladder accidents. Despite construction workers accounting for only six percent of the entire occupational population in New York City, they account for 30 percent of all occupational injuries. Ladder injuries and deaths are a problem in Brooklyn and New York City, and the construction industry is starting to take a closer look at why these accidents happen and how to prevent them.
From changes to the materials used to make ladders, to an increase in ladder safety training for construction workers, there is a focused effort to eliminate all ladder injuries and deaths in the New York City construction world in the near future. OSHA has given hope to these efforts by indicating that nearly all ladder accidents and deaths can be prevented by proper training and using the right materials.
Construction companies in New York City are increasing safety training, and they are developing new ladder safety policies that are designed to keep workers safe. With cooperation among the construction industry and continued innovation by ladder manufacturers, it is not inconceivable that ladder accidents and deaths could be a thing of the past in the growing New York City construction field.