Ladder Falls at Work and How to Avoid Them

We all want to ‘climb the ladder’ at our company. But what happens if you fall off – literally? With ladder-related injuries accounting for approximately 136,000 accidents a year, your business can’t afford to not take ladder falls seriously.

Ladder Falls Statistics

  • More than 500,000 people per year are treated (1), and more than 300 people die (2) from ladder-related injuries. 
  • The estimated total annual cost of ladder injuries in the United States is $24 billion, including work loss, medical, legal, liability, and pain and suffering expenses (1).
  • Among workers, approximately 20 percent of fall injuries involve ladders, and among construction workers, an estimated 81 percent of fall injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms involve a ladder (3).
  • During 2018, Ladders in Construction were one of the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations (4). 

If you would like to see more on stepladder safety, download our Stay Safe with Society Stepladder Safety handout or take our Ladder Safety Challenge to assess your risk level!

Common Causes of Ladder Falls

1. Using the wrong ladder type.       

Ladders are typically constructed of wood, aluminum, and fiberglass. Using a metal ladder in an environment that has electrical energy could result in electrical shock and cause the user to be thrown off the ladder.

Operating a ladder that is too short for the task is a fall hazard. Extension ladders should extend 3-feet past the height needed to ensure stability.

Using a ladder with the wrong duty rating for the task could result in failure of the ladder. Ladders are assigned a duty rating to ensure that they are used with the appropriate load capacity. The duty rating of a ladder can be found on the manufacturer’s label on the side of the ladder.

Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty)  375 pounds
Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) 300 pounds
Type I (Heavy Duty) 250 pounds
Type II (Medium Duty) 225 pounds
Type III (Light Duty) 200 pounds

2. Worn/damaged ladders or ladders with custom modifications.    

Ladder rungs can become loose, cracked and lose their non-slip layer over time which could cause a fall-from-height injury. Ladders should be inspected daily prior to using them to ensure      structural integrity. Locks and ropes on extension ladders should be in working order and free of cracks.

Modifying ladders outside of the manufacturer’s guidelines is not recommended due to the potential of reducing the integrity of the ladder and impacting the duty rating.  Any ladder that has a structural defect must be tagged immediately as “Dangerous Do Not Use” until repairs or replacement of the ladder is completed.

3. Use and placement of ladders.    

Always read and follow all labels, markings and instructions.  Ladders should be placed on a base that is level, firm and stable. The ladder should be firmly set and at a proper angle prior to climbing. Never use boards or other materials to increase the height or improve the base. Several ladders have built-in indicator devices to increase stability.

The proper angle for setting up a straight or extension ladder is to place its base, ¼ of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface. Never use a stepladder leaned against a building or object. Stepladders must be opened to the full extent of the spreader and firmly set on level and stable surfaces. 

Always maintain 3 points of contact when on a ladder (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand).  While ascending and descending, always face the ladder and always maintain the 3 points of contact.  You cannot maintain 3 points of contact while carrying items.

 Preventing Ladder Falls to Protect Employees & Your Bottom Line

Practicing ladder safety in the workplace is important for many reasons, with the most serious being an employee death. Make sure your employees have the right type of ladder for their task with the right duty rating. And make sure that ladders are in good working condition. With proper training and a robust workers’ compensation plan, your business can be prepared for life’s twists and turns.    

Get all the details on how Society can help keep your business healthy by contacting your local independent Society agent.


  1. CPSC (US Consumer Product Safety Commission) [2014]. Unpublished data from the National Injury Information Clearinghouse (CPSC) using the CPSC’s Injury Cost Model.
  2. CDC, National Center for Health Statistics [2017]. Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2015 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10.html.
  3. CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) April 25, 2014 / 63(16);341-346.  Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/Mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6316a2.htm.

    https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html

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