Stairway and Ladder Safety

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Ladder Injuries
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 165,000 Americans require medical treatment for ladder-related injuries each year. Based on a 1990-2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that number is escalating. During the course of the study, from beginning to end, the number of reported cases in which Americans were hurt in incidents involving ladders climbed by more than 50 percent.

Other ladder-injury findings from the study:
• More than 2.1 million people sought emergency treatment in the United States for ladder-related injuries.
• Of those injuries, almost 10 percent resulted in hospitalization or transfer to another hospital.
• The most frequently reported injuries were fractures.
• In cases in which the location where the injury took place was recorded, 97 percent happened at home.
• In nearly 77 percent of the cases, the injured party was male.

Accidental Fall Statistics
Roofing jobs, of course, require lots of time up and down ladders. Even if you're fortunate enough to avoid a ladder-related injury, a fall from the roof itself can happen.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
• Falls were the leading cause of nonfatal, medically treated injuries in the U.S. every single year from 1997 through 2007.
• The majority of reported falls occurred in or around the home.
• Falls were the cause of 38 percent of nonfatal, medically treated injuries in 2007.
• From 1997 to 2007, 71 percent of fall-related injuries resulted in at least a trip to a doctor's office or clinic.
• Of that 71 percent, 56 percent were serious enough to necessitate a visit to an emergency room or the use of an emergency vehicle.
• Between 2004 and 2007, accidental falls accounted for almost 25 percent of all reported fractures.

Mortality Rates
The risk of serious injury in a fall increases, of course, as the height off the ground increases. Falls during roofing jobs can be catastrophic, disabling people for life, or even ending lives.

Here are some sobering statistics to encourage you to think twice before making that climb to your roof:
• The Home Safety Council says that falls are "by far the leading cause of home injury deaths."
• Accidental falls killed 20,823 people in 2006, according to the CDC. That's more people than the Miami Heat's American Airlines Arena seats.
• A 2009 article from the Mayo Clinic listing men's top 10 health threats names falls as one of the lea: ding causes of fatal accidents.

Source: Article: Ladder Injuries, Accidental Fall Statistics Among Reasons Not to Try DIY Roofing

On the Job

On a yearly basis, OSHA estimates that as many as four fatalities, 5,360 impact injuries, and 1,900 sprain or strain injuries occur on stairways used in construction and
- 65 percent of those injured in stairway accidents require medical treatment

In a Bureau of Labor Statistics study of 1,400 ladder accidents that resulted in injuries), the following findings were made:
- 23 percent of the accidents were in construction;
- 42 percent of those injured were working on the ladder when the accident occurred;
- 66 percent of those injured had not been trained in how to inspect ladders for defects before using them;
- 4 percent of the ladders involved in the accidents did not have uniformly spaced steps;
- 19 percent of the ladders involved in the accidents had one or more defects;
- 39 percent of the ladders involved in the accidents had not been extended three feet above the landing level;
- 53 percent of the non-self-supporting ladders had not been secured or braced at the bottom, and 61 percent had not been secured at the top; and
- 53 percent of the ladders involved in the accidents broke during use.
- On a yearly basis, OSHA estimates that as many as 36 fatalities and 24,882 injuries occurred due to falls from stairways and ladders used in construction.
- On a yearly basis, OSHA estimates that there are 11,570 lost workday injuries and 13,312 non-lost workday injuries due to falls from stairways and ladders.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Before you climb, check these basic rules for ladder safety...

• Make sure the spreaders are locked open before climbing.
• Make sure nearby doors are locked or walkways barricaded to prevent collisions.
• Never overreach while working on a stepladder. Move the ladder instead.
• Never climb above the second rung from the top.
Straight Ladders
• Always use the 4-to-1 rule: Position the base of the ladder 1 foot from the wall for every 4 feet of the ladder’s height up to the support point.
Example: The base of a 16-foot ladder should be 4 feet from the wall.
• A straight ladder should extend at least 3 feet past its support point.
• Tie down your ladder as close to the support point as possible.
• Use only straight ladders that have properly functioning safety feet.
• Never climb past the third rung from the top on a straight ladder.
• Never overreach: The trunk of your body should not extend past the side of the ladder.
All Ladders
• Always wear slip-resistant footwear.
• Keep the ladder rungs free of oil and grease.
• Always go up and down facing the ladder, holding on with both hands.
• While working, hold on to the ladder with one hand at all times.
• Use a tool belt or a bucket attached to a hand line to pull tools up.
• Never use a metal ladder when working with electrical current.