Construction sites are plagued by ladder injuries, which can result in serious harm requiring emergency medical attention and hospitalization. Unsafe ladder usage or poor working conditions can cause falls. Although ladders are frequently used in construction, they pose a significant danger to workers if not appropriately safeguarded. While ladders may seem less hazardous than forklifts, trucks, or cranes, they can still cause injury or death if not handled correctly.

Types of Injuries:

Falling from heights is one of the primary causes of serious and fatal injuries among construction workers. Therefore, it is critical to take immediate action to protect workers. These injuries are a significant public health hazard and require a comprehensive understanding of the factors involved. Adhering to proper safety protocols can prevent these injuries and fatalities.

Injuries caused by falls from ladders can be severe and even permanent. Broken bones and fractures, back and neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and death are all possible outcomes of these accidents.

Causes of Ladder Injuries:

As mentioned, unsafe use of a ladder or poor working conditions is some of the main causes that ladder injuries occur. However, there are other aspects that could also contribute to a ladder being unsafe or used incorrectly.

  • Defects in the ladder
  • Exceeding the weight load for the equipment
  • Failing to secure the ladder
  • Faulty design or defective materials
  • Lack of adequate safety equipment such as guardrails or harnesses
  • Lack of qualified supervision
  • Overextending while working from ladders
  • Working above the allowable height of the ladder

Ladder Requirements:

Employers must ensure that ladders are made of sound material, suitable for their intended purpose, and fitted with non-skid devices at the bottom and hooks or similar devices at the upper ends to ensure ladder stability. A ladder must be lashed, held, or secured while in use to ensure stability under all circumstances.

Employers must not use ladders with rungs attached to the stiles only by nails, screws, spikes, or similar means, or rungs not properly let into the stiles. Damaged stiles or rungs or missing rungs also render ladders unfit for use. It is required that no ladder may be used which is longer than 9 meters or extended by fastening two or more ladders unless approved by an inspector. This rule does not apply to free-standing ladders.

Wooden ladders must be constructed of straight-grained wood free from defects, with the grain running in the length of the stiles and rungs. Ladders may not be painted or covered unless cracks or inherent weaknesses have been ruled out.

When work is performed from a ladder, employers must take special precautions to prevent objects from falling, and provide suitable sheaths or receptacles to store hand tools when not in use.

Fixed ladders attached to vertical structures with an inclination to the horizontal level of 75 or more and exceeding 5 meters in length must have rungs at least 150 mm from the attached structure. They must be equipped with a cage that extends from 2.5 meters from the lower level to 900 mm above the top level served by the ladder. The cage must provide firm support for the back of the person climbing the ladder, and no part of the cage shall be more than 700 mm from the level of the rungs. If platforms spaced not more than 8 meters apart and suitable for resting are available, the provisions of the paragraph do not apply.

Our Services

We take the complicated world of construction and operational health and safety and make it simple. For you. Using our knowledge, our experience and our hard-won insight into the industry, we advise, guide and implement safety procedures and standards to create a world where people, simply, feel safe – in their work, in their schools, while out shopping.

Contact us to find out more:

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email:

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