Setting up and operating a ladder is a pretty straightforward thing, right? What many people do not know is that falls are the leading cause of death in construction and approximately 25 percent of those falls come while using a ladder.

There is a common misconception that only really tall ladders cause fatal accidents. Many dangerous and fatal accidents can and do occur from working heights of less than six feet.

The Center for Construction Research and Training reported in January of 2014 the death of a 33-year-old window washer. The man ascended the ladder and then tied a five-gallon bucket to the top of it. Instead of placing the ladder so he could wash the window while facing it, he positioned the ladder so he had to work with his back facing the ladder. The majority of his weight was on the top rungs of the ladder and that, combined with the weight from the bucket, caused the ladder to tip over.

A nearby worker heard the fall and immediately called 9-1-1. When paramedics arrived the man was seizing and 14 hours later died at a local hospital. This fatal accident occurred while the man was working at a height of less than six feet from the ground.

Ways To Prevent Fatal Ladder Falls

This death could have been prevented. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help prevent fatal ladder falls:

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  1. The company should provide hands on training so workers understand how to work safely
  2. The company should provide written safety material that details policies and procedures to be followed to avoid unsafe practices such as:
    • Not placing heavy items on the top or side of a ladder
    • Never working from the top two rungs on an A-frame ladder and the top three rungs of an extension ladder
    • Never overreaching or leaning
    • Always working facing the ladder
    • Always maintaining three points of contact with the ladder


This tragedy can be avoided by implementing some or all of the suggestions listed above. Together we can limit the number of fatal ladder falls by better training and preparing workers.