Preventing Falls from Construction Ladders

Falls are one of the leading problems in the workplace in terms of deaths, lost work time and costs to industry, particularly in construction. Falls from ladders are responsible nationally for 16% of all fatal falls and 8% of non fatal falls, including those resulting in lost work days. Compared to all falls, falls from ladders are among the more serious. One emergency room study found that 68% of ladder fall injuries resulted in lost workdays, with an average of 24 days lost per lost-workday case.

There are remarkably few studies of the events surrounding falls from ladders.
This project seeks to build on earlier and on-going surveillance efforts on ladder-related injuries by moving the research into the development and evaluation of interventions. At present there are still many unknowns about circumstances surrounding falls from ladders in construction. This project is improving our knowledge in this area by informing the development of interventions utilizing several pre-intervention research components.

The aims of this study, designed as a process of progressive steps are:

  1. To identify in greater detail the actual circumstances involved in falls from ladders in construction using a combination of descriptive statistics and an advanced approach to narrative text analysis in national-scale surveillance data systems;
  2. To complete on-site assessments of current and actual practices in ladder use and risk reduction through on-site assessments;
  3. To analytically quantify highest risk tasks and other potentially modifiable risk factors for worker falls from ladders using the novel case-crossover study method in which injured workers are quickly followed-up and serve as their own controls;
  4. To develop and test behavioral and alternative design interventions by translating the risk identification information from aims 1-4 into targeted action.

An Intervention Manual summarizes the results of this study to date.  Publications resulting from this research include the following:

Dennerlein JT, Ronk CJ, Perry MJ. Portable ladder assessment tool development and validation- quantifying best practices in the field. Saf Sci 2009; 47(5):636-9. 

Smith GS, Timmons RA, Lombardi DA, Mamidi DK, Matz S, Courtney TK, Perry MJ.Work-related ladder fall fractures: identification and diagnosis validation using narrative text. Accid Anal Prev 2006; 38(5):973-980.