Three ladder deaths in one week

Photo credit: Christop Brooks-Booth
on Flickr

Within a single week in May 2011, three workers in BC died after falling from ladders at relatively low heights:

* A carpenter fell approximately 10 feet off an extension ladder onto an asphalt driveway.

* A labourer fell onto asphalt from a 12-foot stepladder while powerwashing a commercial building.

* A chimney sweep, working in the rain, fell from a flat roof.

Tragic loss from preventable injuries

It’s so sad to imagine how the families and friends of these workers must be feeling. I spoke with Jessica Kruger, a workplace safety advocate who fell from a ladder when she was 15, and I asked what she thought when she heard about the recent deaths.

“Obviously it’s pretty upsetting. I got involved as a young worker speaker hoping to prevent that,” said Jessica, now 19 and a WorkSafeBC speaker who visits schools and conferences to share her story and encourage change.

“It’s sad that it’s not happening fast. I know that it takes time, but to see people actually dying is pretty heartbreaking.”

Jessica uses a wheel chair because of her injury and hopes to play wheel chair rugby in the Paralympics one day. Her core message regarding workplace safety is this: “Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you have a gut feeling – if you even think for two seconds that what you’re doing could be dangerous, talk to your employer and think about the different safety options you should be taking. Getting the training is more important, and that’s not only the worker’s job. It’s the employer’s, as well.”

Why are so many people falling from ladders?

Maybe it’s because ladders are so common. It surprised me to hear how many workers fell from ladders between 2001 and 2010. Thirteen people died and there were 4,214 serious injury claims. (A “serious injury” is one in which a worker loses more than 28 days of wages due to an injury.)

Most falls from ladders happen in construction, but others occur in the service industry, manufacturing, transportation/warehousing, and elsewhere. I’m sure there must be hundreds more that happen at home, too. So please take a second thought before you climb a ladder – at work or at home – and check out these resources from WorkSafeBC:

“You’re a Pro” Construction Safety Videos
Four videos that demonstrate different hazards in construction and describe how to reduce the risk of injury.

WorkSafeBC’s Ladder Safety
A five-part video designed to highlight the important safety procedures associated with ladder use on construction sites. The video uses classic B&W comedic film footage and computer graphic simulations to illustrate safe ladder techniques.

The Ladder Challenge Game
An online game where you can put your ladder safety skills to the test on a virtual construction site.

Construction Safety Series
A booklet that focuses on ladder safety and fall protection for residential construction.

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