How To Stay Safe While On A Ladder

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By Marcus Fernandez

Look around, and chances are you’ll see a ladder. They are everywhere, from construction sites to a closet or garage in the average home. If you don’t own one, you’ll probably buy one as soon as a lightbulb in a ceiling fixture needs replacement.

Despite the widespread use of ladders, it’s surprising that thousands suffer injuries, both at work and at home. In fact, more than 100 die each year in ladder accidents. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls from heights are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. 

March is National Ladder Safety Month when the American Ladder Institute promotes ladder safety. KFB Law wants to do its part with this guide about safety that includes tips to help you avoid accidents when using a ladder. It also explains your legal rights when injured at home or work using a ladder. This includes how to pursue claims for workers’ compensation benefits and filing a product liability claim to recover damages when injured by one that may be defective.

Common causes of falls from ladders and how to avoid them

Ladders can be a safe and convenient device to reach high places. But, doing so safely depends on how you set up and use It. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies the following as the common causes of injuries and deaths from use of ladders: 

  • Improperly setting up extension: The CDC reports that 40% of injuries are caused by extension ladders sliding when improperly set up. The angle of setup plays a crucial role in the stability of extension ladders.
  • Selecting the wrong type: Ladders have duty ratings for a reason. A duty rating tells you the maximum load capacity it can safely handle. Choosing one based on your body weight could collapse when you attempt to carry heavy loads, including tools. 
  • Not inspecting and maintaining a ladder: Depending on the age of a ladder and the amount of use it gets, it should be periodically inspected. Any broken, worn, or missing rubber feet that come in contact with the floor or ground should be replaced. Worn ropes on extension ladders and broken steps or rungs should be replaced. The rungs on them should be cleaned to remove grease, oil, and other substances. These could make them slippery to stand on.
  • Improper use of a ladder: Climbing above the rung labeled by the manufacturer as the highest point to stand on a ladder should be avoided. Reaching too far to the sides or overhead can make it unstable and cause a fall. Avoid carrying heavy or bulky objects and climbing or descending too fast causing accidents.
  • Lack of adequate safety training or information: Homeowners and others making non-commercial use of ladders should read the safety instructions that come with them before use. Companies should ensure that all employees receive adequate training in setting up and using ladders before they use them.

Follow the three-point rule when climbing or descending. Face the rungs and maintain three points of contact. For example, use two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot. 

What can you do if injured in a fall from a ladder?

Suppose you suffer injuries in a fall or other mishap involving a ladder. In that case, there are several possible sources to pay your medical expenses, lost earnings from missing time at work, and diminished quality of life. Potential parties who may bear responsibility for the accident, depending on its circumstances, include:

  • The manufacturer of the ladder.
  • The person who set up the ladder.
  • The party responsible for maintaining the ladder.
  • The owner of the property where the accident occurred.

A claim for damages based on negligence requires evidence proving that someone acted unreasonably and caused you harm. A Tampa personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your ladder accident and determine whether a negligence claim exists.

Product liability claims in Florida for defective ladders

Florida law allows you to file a civil lawsuit against the party responsible for producing the ladder that caused you to be harmed through a product liability claim. A product may be defective for three reasons under product liability law:

  • Design defect: When the design of a product is defective, nothing done at the production stage can make it safe. For example, a multi-position ladder with locking pins designed so they do not fit into holes to lock in place. This may cause a ladder to collapse while in use.
  • Manufacturing defect: Although it was designed correctly, a product could be manufactured in a way that makes it unsafe. For example, the failure of assemblers to adequately tighten all fasteners. This may result in a collapse when in use, which would be a manufacturing defect.
  • Failure to warn:  This is also known as a marketing defect and occurs when instructions included with a product fail to warn the consumer of risks associated with using the product. For example, the failure of a ladder to have a warning in the instructions that come with it or on a label affixed to a step or rung advising a user that standing on the top two rungs may cause a person to lose their balance and fall or cause the ladder to topple over.

Florida has a modified comparative fault law that prevents you from recovering compensation for injuries when the evidence shows that you were more than 50% at fault. It applies to claims based on negligence and product liability. Talk to a Tampa personal injury attorney to determine how modified comparative negligence may affect your claim.

Florida workers’ compensation benefits for ladder accidents

If you suffer injuries in a ladder accident, file a claim under the state’s workers’ compensation law. Most employers in Florida must carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect workers with job-related injuries. 

Benefits available through a workers’ comp claim include payment of medical expenses for treatment of your injuries and reimbursement of a portion of the wages lost from being unable to work. You can recover benefits without the need to prove fault on the part of your employer or anyone else. However, you must notify your employer of the accident within 30 days to protect your rights.

Filing a worker compensation claim does not prevent you from also claiming to recover damages from a ladder manufacturer or other party responsible for the accident. You cannot, however, sue your employer.

Talk to a Tampa personal injury attorney

If you’ve suffered injuries in a ladder accident, discover the proactive assistance a personal injury attorney from KFB Law can provide to support your case. Contact us today for a free consultation and claim review.