Apprentices underestimate ladder risk: report

June 24, 2010

Although falls from ladders account for 30 percent of falls from heights, residential apprentices believe ladders pose minimal risk, according to research from the Washington State University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Duke University in Durham, NC; and the Carpenters' District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity.

According to a study abstract, researchers surveyed 1,025 apprentices to assess their fall prevention knowledge, risk perceptions, confidence, training, perceived safety climate and crew safety behaviors. About 16 percent of the apprentices reported falling in the past year, and more than 50 percent knew someone who had fallen, according to a press release from the Silver Spring, MD-based Center for Construction Research and Training, which funded the study.

The biggest predictor of falls was less than one year of experience in construction. Most apprentices said they had not received training on proper ladder use. About 87 percent were trained on fall protection systems, although only 13 percent of worksites used them, the release said.

Recommendations included better fall prevention training for apprentices, and contractors and researchers should work together to improve the safety culture.