Falls from Ladders

A majority of work performed at construction sites is done with the use of ladders. A number of fall-related accidents that occur at worksites involve victims falling from ladders. These types of accidents have the potential to result in major injuries or even fatalities. New York state laws regulate work performed on ladders at construction sites, etc. These laws are in place for the safety and well being of workers. 

If you have been injured due to a fall from a ladder, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. Our experienced New York construction accident lawyers can help injured victims obtain maximum compensation for their losses. We will fight hard to get the money you deserve.

Ladder Injury Statistics

A recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that falls remain a leading cause of unintentional injury deaths nationwide and 43 percent of fatal falls in the last decade or so have involved ladders. Among workers, roughly 20 percent of fall injuries involve ladders. An estimated 81 percent of the incidents involving injured construction workers who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fall injuries involve ladders.

In 2011, work-related ladder fall injuries resulted in 113 fatalities, an estimated 15,460 nonfatal injuries reported by employers as requiring more than one day away from work as well as an estimated 34,000 nonfatal injuries treated in emergency rooms. Rates for nonfatal work-related, emergency room ladder-related fall injuries were higher than those for such injuries as reported by employers in the same year (2011). Researchers concluded that ladder-related fall incidents represent a substantial public health burden of preventable injuries for workers.

Based on the study, here are a few facts on injuries that occur due to falls from ladders:

  • Men and Hispanics had higher rates of fatal and nonfatal ladder-related fall injuries compared with women and workers of other races/ethnicities.
  • Ladder-related injuries increased with age, except for injuries treated in emergency rooms.
  • Fatality rates were substantially higher for self-employed workers compared with salary/wage workers.
  • Companies with the fewest employees had the highest fatality rates.
  • The construction industry had the highest rate of injuries and fatalities when it came to falls from ladders compared with all other industries.
  • Across all industries, the highest fatal and nonfatal ladder-related injuries were in two occupation groups: construction and mining followed by installation, maintenance and repair workers.
  • Head injuries were noted in about half of all ladder-related fatalities (49 percent) while most nonfatal injuries involved the upper and lower extremities.

OSHA Safety Standards

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for portable ladders. These requirements are designed to ensure worker safety and are described as follows.

Loads: Self-supporting (foldout) and non-self-supporting (leaning) portable ladders must be able to support at least four times the maximum intended load, except extra-heavy-duty metal or plastic ladders, which must be able to sustain 3.3 times the maximum intended load.

Angle: Non-self-supporting ladders must lean against a wall or other support and must be positioned at such an angle that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about one-fourth the working length of the ladder. In the case of wooden ladders, the angle should equal about one-eighth the working length. This helps minimize the strain of the load on ladder joints that may not be quite as strong as commercially manufactured ladders.

Rungs: The ladder’s rungs, cleats or steps must be parallel, level and spaced equally when the ladder is in position for use. Rungs must be spaced between 10 and 14 inches apart. For extension trestle ladders, the spacing must be 8 to 18 inches for the base, and 6 to 12 inches on the extension section. Rungs should also be shaped in such a manner that the worker’s foot will not slide off. The rungs are required to be skid resistant.

Slipping: Ladders are to be kept free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other slipping hazards. Wood ladders must not be coated with any opaque covering, except identification or warning labels on one face only of a side rail.
Other requirements: Foldout or step ladders must have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front and back sections in an open position when in use. When two or more ladders are used to reach a work area, they must offset with a landing or platform between the ladders. The area around the top and bottom of the ladder must be kept clear. Also, ladders should not be tied together to provide longer sections, unless they are specifically designed for such use.

Contributing Factors

Ladders pose a significant risk for injury just as scaffolding does. When a worker falls off a ladder, the consequences can be catastrophic. Here are a few factors that add to the severity of a ladder-related fall.

  • Many ladder-related accidents involve falls from extreme heights. This can have devastating outcome for workers. The risk for workers are directly linked with the height of the ladders they are working on.
  • Defective ladders can cause serious fall-related injuries. It is the duty of the construction company owner, contractor, sub-contractor or other responsible party to inspect all equipment to ensure that it is fit for use.
  • Negligent coworkers can also pose a risk. For example, if you are counting on a fellow worker to steady your ladder, his or her negligence or inattention can cause a serious fall.
  • Bad weather may also play a part in ladder accidents. For example, when there are high winds, heavy rain or snowfall, the victim may get knocked off the ladder and face the risk of critical injuries.
  • Electric shock is also a serious risk while using ladders. If your ladder comes into contact with live power lines and is not properly insulated, the electric shock can cause you to lose your balance and fall. Electrocution may prove deadly.

New York’s Ladder and Scaffolding Law

New York’s Scaffolding Law (Section 240 of the New York Labor Code) requires general contractors, owners and their agents and others to be responsible for providing necessary equipment such as scaffolds, ladders, hoists, stays, irons, ropes, blocks braces and other devices to keep workers safe from fall-related accidents. Since this law was enacted in the early part of the 20th century, workers injured in ladder and scaffolding accidents have had the ability to bring civil actions against the general contractor and property owner and/or property manager and others responsible for the safety of the jobsite.

The law specifically states: “All contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.”

Common Fall-Related Injuries

Here are some of the most common injuries sustained as the result of falling from ladders.

Head injuries: Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A brain injury may be a severe injury that causes swelling, seizures and other severe complications. Falls are responsible for 40 percent of all traumatic brain injuries in the United States that require emergency room treatment or hospitalization. Brain injuries have the potential to result in long-term disabilities. Many workers are unable to return to their jobs after a head injury.

Spinal cord injuries: When a person falls off a ladder, the impact may lead to broken vertebrae or slipped or herniated discs. This may cause significant pain and limit the person’s mobility. An injury to the spinal cord may even cause paralysis (permanent or temporary) and lead to other neurological and sensory impairments. The Mayo Clinic says falls cause more than a quarter of spinal cord injuries in the United States.

Hip fractures: The CDC states that more than 95 percent of broken hips are suffered in falls. A hip fracture typically requires surgery and hospitalization for about a week followed by extensive rehabilitation. Surgery may include implantation of an artificial hip. This type of injury can be debilitating and prevent workers from returning to their jobs in the long term.

Shoulder injuries: Falls from ladders may also result in a shoulder dislocation or an injury that is known as a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. These painful injuries may require surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Some of these injuries may not be completely cured even after rehabilitation.

Sprains and broken bones: Falling off a ladder can cause the victim to twist a knee or ankle and sprain the connective ligaments at those joints. The impact of landing on the ground or floor or hitting something can cause bones to break. These are extremely painful injuries. Victims may need a lot of physical therapy to regain strength, mobility and flexibility. The most common fractures suffered in falls are of the hip, spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.

If You Have Been Injured

If you have suffered injuries after a fall from a ladder, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your legal rights. Report the incident and your injuries to your employer, preferably, a direct supervisor. Get a copy of the signed report for your records. Obtain prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries. Secure the names and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the incident.

Take photos of the location where the accident occurred. Preserve all evidence including the ladder from which you fell and other equipment that may have caused or contributed to your injuries. Do not admit fault to anyone. Contact an experienced New York City construction accident attorney who will remain on your side and help protect your rights every step of the way.

Damages in Such Cases

If you are a construction worker who has suffered an injury on the job, in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, you may be able to file a third-party claim. Such claims may be filed in cases where the negligence of a party other than the employer or a co-employee caused the construction accident. Third-party claims are usually worth much more than workers’ compensation claims and help seriously injured workers and their families during their most challenging times.

Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, general contractors, construction companies, sub-contractors, building owners, managing agents, the firm that is responsible for maintaining or repairing equipment used at a site such as scaffolds or ladders, a project manager, engineer or architect supervising the project, etc. Injured workers can seek damages for the losses they have suffered depending on the nature and extent of their injuries. The damages that injured workers may seek include, but are not limited to medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitative treatment, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.

Contacting a New York Construction Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a construction accident or if you have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, the experienced New York construction accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year.

Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

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