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Ladder Safety: High Number of Workplace Incidents Require More Attention

workplace ladder safetyA recent paper that's been published within the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has been quite an eye-opener. The paper evaluates the number of injuries and deaths as a direct result of work-related ladder accidents by compiling data from many different injury surveillance systems and the results are quite alarming.
While there is an abundance of data available, it takes time to mine through and it's hard to get current and consistent numbers, so the paper has focused on the 2011 work year in an effort to provide the most accurate report possible.
Within 2011, there were 113 fatal falls from ladders. Another 15,460 falls were non-fatal and resulted in at least a day of lost time and 34,000 non-fatal ladder injuries that required treatment in emergency rooms.
The Ladder Fall Injuries (LFIs) report shows an abundance of preventable injuries and deaths for workers. It simultaneously highlights the need for research and action that can help create awareness while aiding in the development of innovative technologies to assist in the prevention of falls.
According to the data, men and Hispanics showed an increased rate of fatal and non-fatal LFIs when compared to women and non-hispanic persons of other race/ethnicity. Additionally, they discovered that accident rates increased with age and fatality rates were noticeably higher for workers who are self-employed. Interestingly, establishments with fewer employers had a higher rate of death or injury due to LFIs.
Construction and extraction were found to be the two most likely industries to suffer accidents with ladders, followed by installation, maintenance and repair work.
Of all fatal LFIs on record for 2011, nearly half (49%) of those show the implication of head industries. Most non-fatal LFIs involved damage to upper and lower extremities.
Another factor mentioned within the report is the height of the falls, which was documented for 82 of the 113 fatalities recorded and for 11,400 of the 34,000 non-fatal falls which were recorded. Almost 90% of all non-fatal falls occurred at a height of less than 16 feet with heights between 6 - 10 feet being the most common. As for fatal falls, heights of 6-10 were the most common, yet they only accounted for 28% of the total fatalities on record.
Overall, the numbers seem quite alarming considering ladder safety should be common knowledge. While accidents and equipment failure do happen, proper awareness that could be created by ladder inspection and other preventative procedures should be able to lower these numbers significantly.
The paper, was written by Christina M. Socias, DrPH, of CDC; and Cammie K. Chaumont Menéndez, Ph.D., James W. Collins, Ph.D., and Peter Simeonov, Ph.D., all three of whom work for NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research. The authors have also implemented several suggestions for employers to help prevent ladder falls.
View this CDC report here, and keep in mind that ladder safety is a serious concern and should be reviewed in your workplace to ensure best practices. To aid in reducing and/or avoiding LFIs in your workplace you can download the Free NIOSH Ladder Safety Smartphone app for for both iPhone and Android devices. The app is loaded with cool features that will ensure a safer step up.

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