Guys + Ladders = Trouble

age in place ladders

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word, she can get what she came for

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…

-Led Zeppelin

Joan was out shopping on a sunny Saturday afternoon; something she had looked forward to with anticipation and a sense of earned downtime from a busy work week. Blending pleasure shopping with errands, she was fully involved in the joy of having a day off to do what she pleased.

She didn’t hear her cell phone go off the first two times–it was only on the third cycle of rings that her attention was diverted to a message that would take her abruptly in a different direction:

“Honey” she heard in a faint and pathetic tone, “I’ve fallen off the ladder and I’m bleeding…you need to get home now.”

You Can do it and We Can Help

Home improvement in the United States has gained unprecedented popularity over the past two decades as TV and radio programs provide irresistible do-it-yourself instruction on an endless array of domestic challenges, but there may be a downside. According to Safety and Health Magazine:

  • Ladder-related incidents led to more than 150 worker fatalities and more than 20,000 nonfatal injuries in 2015, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  • Ladders have ranked seventh on OSHA’s annual “Top 10” list of most cited violations for the past two years.

Further, findings from another study reported in the Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care, concluded that the high-risk group for nonoccupational ladder injuries is men over 45. They are most likely to suffer upper limb injuries and admission to hospital is not uncommon.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, every year 500,000 people are treated for ladder-related injuries and approximately 300 of these incidents prove to be fatal. In 2007 alone, more than 400 people died as a result of falls on or from ladders or scaffolding.

~Liberty Mutual – Research Institute for Safety

More alarming statistics:

• Fatal falls, by type of fall, 2009, over one-third involved falls from roofs or ladders. Out of 617 falls, 20 percent were from the ladder, 18 percent were from the roof.  -U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor, 2010

• Work-related fatal falls, by type of fall, 2010, nearly two-fifths involved falls from roofs or ladders. Out of 646 falls, 20 percent were from the ladder, 18 percent were from the roof. -U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor, 2011

• Ladder-related injuries per 100,000 people rose almost 27 percent during the 16-year study period — 97.3 percent occurred in non-occupational settings, such as homes and farms. More than 2.1 million people needed to be hospitalized, about twice the overall admission rate for consumer-product related injuries.

Study conclusion: Given the 50 percent increase in ladder-related injuries during the study period, the relatively high likelihood of hospital admission, and the predominance of injuries in non-occupational settings, increased efforts are needed to prevent ladder-related injuries.


5 Most Common Causes of Ladder Incidents

  1. Missing the last step of the ladder when climbing down. Exercise caution when climbing down a ladder. Always face the ladder when climbing up or down, and don’t skip steps!
  2. Overreaching while on the ladder. When working from a ladder, keep your center of gravity and body between the side rails. If you can’t easily reach the project area once you have ascended the ladder, climb down the ladder and move the ladder closer to your project area.
  3. The ladder was not the right size for the job. One of the factors in determining the right ladder for the job is length. A good rule of thumb when selecting a ladder is to calculate a person’s maximum reach height, which is approximately four feet higher than the height of the ladder.
  4. The ladder was not on firm, level ground. Clear trash, construction materials and other obstructions away from the base and top of the ladder. The base of the ladder should be safely secured to prevent accidental movement. You can also use a ladder with non-slip feet or add outriggers or levelers to the bottom of an extension ladder to increase the footprint.
  5. Three points of contact were not used when climbing the ladder. Always maintain three points of contact – two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand – when climbing up or down a ladder. This allows you to maintain your balance.
    ~American Ladder Insititue Feb/2018 (

911 Husband Down

Joan, an experienced nurse, called neighbors to check on her husband as she drove in a panic to the house. Upon arrival she found her husband Dan dazed, pain in his shoulder, bleeding from his head, and surrounded by half-circle of onlooking neighbors–all puzzled at what to do next. In the backyard lay the smoking gun, a ladder resting on its side under the eve of the roof; half on the cement patio, half on the damp fall grass.

After an initial episode of stubborn-refusal to go to the ER, 911 was dialed and Dan was soon on his way to a nearby trauma center for evaluation.

Seems Dan had placed the front legs of the ladder on the cement patio and the back legs on the damp grass–positioning to view the gutters. Upon assent, the back legs sunk into the moist earth like a fork into a chilled cheesecake. The ladder went one way and Dan the other.

He suffered a Subdural hematoma, dislocated shoulder, and a harsh reminder of his own mortality–which at age 62, is fortunate in that it could have been much more tragic.

It’s Kind of a Guy Thing

Climbing ladders at any age is risky but the odds for accident and injury are greater for those over 45. Ladder accidents are a real threat to aging in place, and with the fall and winter season upon us, emergency room visits from older guys cleaning leaves from gutters and hanging LED Christmas lights will increase with the drop in temperature.

Injuries due to ladder accidents can be considered “secondary agers” in that they can speed up the aging process by limiting long-term mobility or causing head trauma which can manifest as dementia down the road; both leading to premature institutionalization or death (the stairway to heaven).

The Lesson: Never use a ladder by yourself, especially if you’re over 45 years of age and male. Better yet, find someone else to hang  Holiday Lights for you!!


The American Ladder Institute

Video: aging in place / falling off a ladder

Video: Man takes a nasty fall from ladder

OHSA Ladder Safety

error: Content is protected !!