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Get serious about ladder safety

Did you know that ladders are the leading cause of death and injury in household products? Follow these safety tips to remain safe while doing the everyday chores around the house

Two ladders on a wall

Ladder safety matters.

In 2017-18, over 5,600 people were hospitalised as a result of falling from a ladder at home. People aged 65 years and older are most likely to suffer serious injuries from a ladder fall – so don’t become a statistic! In 2020, 36 people died from falls from ladders.

11 of those people were from Victoria.

Falls from ladders can cause serious injuries that require lengthy hospital stays and long recoveries. Injuries can have long-term consequences and some people won’t ever get back to normal. A fall of 1 to 2 meters can be enough to cause broken bones, spinal cord damage, severe brain injury or even death however ladder falls are preventable. Here are some tips to help you stay on top of the ladder:

  • Use only ladders that meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1892) – pay attention to safety warnings – don’t climb too high.
  • Check that your ladder is in good working order; ensure it is free of rust, has non-slip safety feet, and if safety locks and braces are in place – use them!
  • Don’t use a ladder with missing or loose parts, or if it is bent or warped – wobbly ladders should be retired to the bench.
  • Ensure the ladder is level and positioned on a firm, dry surface – check out the state of the ground and that nothing slippery is near the base or top contact points.
  • Never put the ladder on top of other objects to gain extra height.
  • Choose a ladder that is the right height for the job.
  • Maintain three points of contact at all times while on the ladder. Use two hands when climbing. When using a tool, make sure both feet and your other hand are secure on the ladder.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Work within your arm’s reach and avoid leaning out – it is much safer to get down and readjust the ladder. Don’t be lazy – re-position the ladder as you go.
  • Have someone hold the ladder while you climb – great team work can save the day.
  • Avoid using a ladder during hot days to prevent getting dizzy and losing balance.

Work within your limits and make sure another person is at home while you are working with a ladder, should you need help. It is a good idea to have another person to help hold the ladder, to prevent it from slipping. For more information on ladder safety visit the Product Safety Australia websiteExternal Link .

Mick's story

Mick decided to trim the tall hedge that his wife, Barb, had been asking him to do for a while. It was a hot, humid day, and Mick was tired, but he just wanted to get the job done.

Mick was an active retiree in his 60s, who liked to do things himself. He had run a restumping business for 20 years, so he was used to physical labour and had broken a few bones in his time. The hedge was more than 3 metres high, so Mick set up a couple of ladders with a plank between them so that he could move along the hedge without going up and down a ladder. He put a few bits of wood under the feet of the ladders to stabilise them.

Mick was leaning his back against the side of the house, electric hedge trimmer in hand, when the ladders gave way underneath him. Mick fell more than 2 metres to the ground, hitting his head on a brick windowsill on the way down.

Watch a video about Mick.External Link

Nick's story

Five years ago, Nick was an active man in his 70s. Nick and his wife, Mersina, enjoyed holidays around the world and travelling to visit their children and grandchildren in Asia.

Nick walked more than 10 kilometres each day from his Port Melbourne home to St Kilda beach and back. He also enjoyed home maintenance and DIY projects. Nick had recently completed a project to extend their home. Nick’s new roof was put to the test when a torrential downpour occurred. Water started coming inside through the roof. Nick went outside to see if he could fix the leak.

Nick had placed 2 ladders on top of each other and without thinking he decided to climb onto the ladders. He fell from a small height – about a metre high – and he fell backwards, hit his head on the grass and he was unconscious.

Watch a video about Nick.External Link

Paul's story

Paul was making the most of his retirement by painting the exterior of his house. It was a job that had needed to be done for a while, and now he had the time, he got to work sanding and painting the weatherboards.

He was racing the sun at the end of the day. It was starting to get dark, his glasses were covered in sawdust, and he was tired, but he just wanted to get the job done. Paul was leaning over, rather than going down the ladder, moving the ladder and going back up again. He just reached out to try and sand the last bit. That’s when the ladder became unstable, and he fell. He landed with a great thud on the concrete. He had hit his head and was in a lot pain, particularly back pain.

Paul was a nurse for 32 years and he was quite aware that such a fall could cause death. He was too scared to move from the ground.

Watch a video about Paul.External Link

Watch a video from Dr OwenExternal Link about why ladder safety matters.

Reviewed 21 November 2022