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Construction Depot

Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

August 12, 2016

What you should know about ladder accidents

photo pf ladder

In 2015, Oregon OSHA compliance officers investigated 13 cases in which a worker needed to be hospitalized at least one night for a ladder-related accident. From January through July this year, there were four cases in which workers shared a similar fate.

Compliance officers issued 25 citations to employers in 14 of the 17 cases. In the remaining three cases, no citations were issued because the employers had provided ladder training, the ladders were in good condition, and the injured employees were using the ladders properly when the accidents happened. These three cases underscore the fact that ladders have inherent risks even when they are used properly. When ladders are used improperly, the risk increases.

The tables below summarize why the employers were cited.


Improper ladder use

Many ladder accidents could be avoided if workers chose the right ladder for the job, inspected the ladder before they used it, set it up properly, and did not overload it.

Non-self-supporting ladders were not used at an angle such that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder was approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder. 1926.1053(b)(5)(i) 2 citations
Ladders were used on surfaces which were not stable and level. 1926.1053(b)(6) 2 citations
Ladders were not secured when used on surfaces that allowed slipping or movement. 437-002-0026(7)(h) 1 citation
The tops of a non-self-supporting ladder were not placed with the two rails supported equally. 1926.1053(b)(10) 1 citation
Ladders were loaded beyond their manufacturer's rated capacity. 1926.1053(b)(3) 1 citation
Ladders were not inspected and removed from service when they were defective. 437-002-0026(5)(e) 1 citation
Ladders were used for purposes not intended by the manufacturer or as a brace, skid, guy or anchor point. 437-002-0026(7)(q) 1 citation
  9 citations


Lack of training or supervision

Some employers assume that their employees know how to use ladders but that is often not the case. Although "improper use" is a reason for many ladder accidents, an underlying cause is that the employees have not been trained to use them properly.

The employer did not see that workers were properly instructed and supervised in the safe operation of any machinery, tools, equipment, process, or practice which they were authorized to use or apply. 437-001-0760(1)(a) 3 citations
The employer did not provide a training program for each employee using ladders. 1926.1060(a) 1 citation
  4 citations


Failure to report in-patient hospitalization

Failure to report an in-patient hospitalization is a symptom of a problem with an employer's safety program. Employers must report an in-patient hospitalization to Oregon OSHA within 24 hours after an accident. In four of these work-related ladder accidents, employers did not report the in-patient hospitalizations until days after the accidents happened – even though the employers knew that the employees were hospitalized.

The employer did not report in-patient hospitalizations. 437-001-0704(4) 4 citations
  4 citations


No safety committees, safety meetings, or documentation

No safety committee – or safety meetings – is another symptom of a deficient safety program. Most Oregon employers must have safety committees or hold regular safety meetings. Employers must keep meeting minutes if their employees do construction, utility, or manufacturing work. All other employers must keep minutes at meetings only when employees are absent.

The employer did not establish and administer an effective safety committee or hold effective safety meetings. 437-001-0765(1) 2 citations
An employer in construction, utility work, or manufacturing did not document, make available, and keep for three years a written record of each safety meeting. 437-001-0765(13) 2 citation
  4 citations


No provisions for medical services or first aid

When a worker needs medical attention for a serious injury (or any other medical condition), call 911. Do not rely on self-assessments or medical assessments from well-intentioned co-workers. This year, a number of workplace medical emergencies have left workers waiting while co-workers discussed whether a 911 call was necessary. In one case, co-workers loaded an injured worker – who was sitting in a chair, unable to move – into a truck and drove him to an urgent care center only to discover that the facility was not equipped to deal with his injuries.

There is nothing wrong with an emergency plan that relies on a 911 call for serious medical events. In fact, it is a good idea.

Provisions were not made prior to commencement of the project for prompt medical attention in case of serious injury. 1926.50(b) 1 citations
Emergency medical services for injured or sick employees were not available in time to give appropriate treatment for the circumstances. 437-004-1305(3) 1 citation
  2 citations


Employer did not take all reasonable means to require employees to work and act in a safe manner

In two cases, workers fell from fixed ladders. The circumstances were unusual. In the first case, the worker was trying to open a defective roof hatch from a fixed ladder. The employer knew the hatch was defective but did not put the ladder out of service until the hatch had been fixed. In the second case, the worker was working on equipment from a fixed ladder. The work required the worker to lean away from the ladder; the fall could have been prevented if the worker used a personal fall restraint system.

Employer failed to remove an unsafe fixed ladder from service 437-001-0760(1)(b)(A) 1 citations
Employer failed to require employee to wear personal fall protection. 437-001-0760(1)(b)(C) 1 citation
  2 citations


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