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NIOSH study looks at workplace ladder safety

What does it take to climb a ladder? The initial reaction might be to scoff and say all it takes is to go up one rung at a time. Now ask yourself, what does it take to climb a ladder safely?

If you put a little time and energy into it, as a team of researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health did recently, you will discover that climbing a ladder safely is a lot harder than you thought -- certainly a lot harder than falling off one and suffering a workplace accident.

For workers on the job in Iowa who face using ladders every day, this might be something to take note of.

The NIOSH scientists analyzed information from accidents reported over the course of 2011. What they found was that 113 people died in ladder-related work falls that year. More than 15,000 workers suffered injuries that resulted in their missing at least one day of work. And some 34,000 workers who suffered falls from ladders ended up having to access hospital emergency rooms.

It's unclear from the report on the study what the implications were in terms of workers' compensation from all those injuries and deaths. We suspect they were significant, however, and chances are that not all of the victims received all the benefits they were entitled if they didn't have the help of an attorney.

The researchers conclude that a lot of injuries, and by extension deaths, could be reduced without a great deal of effort. They say one thing that would help is if workers got better training on safe ladder practice. And they say that's something that could be achieved if employers, health care professionals and safety experts coordinated their efforts to get the message across.

Source: Business and Legal Resources, "Researchers reveal deadly facts about workplace ladders; Do's and don'ts for ladder safety," May 27, 2014

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