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FACEValue: Construction worker dies after fall from ladder

Case report: 2010 IA 054*
Issued by: Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: Fall 2010

A 46-year-old helper in a small construction business was fatally injured when he fell from an extension ladder onto a concrete block foundation retaining wall. The victim had been employed for one year as a part-time helper and driver. A three-man crew was working on a project that involved renovating a semiprivate recreation club 4 miles from a nearby town. On the afternoon of the incident, the crew was tearing off shingles from the intact section of the clubhouse. A new 32-foot, two-section non-self-supporting fiberglass extension ladder was used to access the roof, and was extended an estimated 25 feet, about 3 feet beyond the roof eaves. Near the end of the workday, the helper announced to the owner that he was bringing a tarp up to the roof because rain was expected that evening. The owner, working on the opposite side of the roof gable where he could not see the ladder or victim, heard the clatter of the ladder falling. He went over the roof gable to see the helper lying on the foundation retaining wall of the structure. The victim had fallen an estimated minimum distance of 10 to 12 feet. The owner immediately called 911. Emergency medical services arrived to find the victim unconscious. He was transported to a regional hospital approximately 30 miles away and died four hours later.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Use a hoist or pulley to raise and lower heavy or awkward objects.
  • Set up non-self-supporting extension ladders on firm level footing so the height-to-base ratio is 4:1. Ensure both rails of the ladder maintain equal contact with the supporting structure. Tie or stake the ladder so the top and bottom are secure and unable to move laterally.
  • Train employees who use ladders to recognize all fall hazards at the worksite and the means to eliminate those hazards.
  • Regularly check ladders and ladder accessories, including straps, stabilizers, clips and bolts affixing stand-off bars or stabilizers to ensure they are intact and not missing, damaged or worn.
  • Use ladders that are sized for the maximum load and capacity that will be needed. Do not load ladders beyond the manufacturer’s rated capacity.

*This report is the product of NIOSH’s Cooperative State partner. The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of NIOSH.

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