Ladder and Roof-Top Safety
Almost 1,000 American workers died in falls last year.
All these accidents were preventable.
By C. Byron Winn, Ph.D.
There were nearly 6,000 fatal work injuries
in the United States last year. Of these,
falls accounted for approximately 16 percent, and most of these were falls from ladders. The construction industry had more fatal
accidents than any other sector, and one-third
of construction site fatalities were falls.
Falls can easily be avoided by following
simple safety practices, at all times, with no
short cuts or time savers. The guidelines for
fall prevention are straightforward and are set
forth in state and national codes.
When do you need fall protection?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), any side
or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more
above a lower level
should have protection
provided by a guardrail,
a safety net or a personal protection system.
However, the Occupational Safety and
(OSHA) permits the use
of warning lines, designated areas, control
zones and similar sys-
tems in some situations. If in doubt about any
particular job, check with OSHA ( osha.gov).
Here are two examples where good safety
practices were not followed:
C. Byron Winn,
A carpenter died after falling 10 feet
( 3 meters) and striking his head on a concrete
retaining wall. He was working on a stepladder that was on the floor of what was to be
a deck on the second level of a house under
construction. The ladder was close to the
edge. Although no one saw the fall, it was
speculated that as he descended the ladder
his final step was “on air” and he fell backwards to his death. A guardrail could have
Two teenage boys were clearing snow
from a flat roof. One of them, a 14-year old,
stepped on a skylight and fell through to his
death. As it was covered with snow and there
was no rope or chain around it and the boys
had not been warned of its existence, he had
no way of knowing it was there.
Ladders: The following steps should be
taken to avoid misuse of portable ladders.
• Never use rocks, blocks of wood or other
loose props in attempting to level a ladder on
a slope. Instead, use a mechanical ladder leveler appropriate for the particular ladder.
• Secure the ladder with ropes so that it
• Do not overload the ladder.
• Prior to each use, inspect the ladder for
cracked rungs, etc.
• Use only ladders that comply with
OSHA design standards.