On Memorial Day, Scott was on a ladder putting the cover back on the family camper – something he did all the time. At some point, he fell and hit his head on a concrete slab. His wife found him unconscious. Scott was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Doctors said he suffered subdermal hematoma in his left brain and a basal skull fracture, as well as a right occipital lobe fracture.
Four days after the fall. Scott underwent emergency surgery to remove part of his skull in order to relieve pressure from his brain. He was on life support for ten days and in a coma for two weeks. When he eventually woke up, he didn’t know his wife and three young children; he couldn’t even recognize his identical twin brother.
Scott is making very slow progress, but needs round-the-clock care. He must learn to read, write, and walk again. He has multiple therapy and doctor appointments every week. In order to take care of her family, Scott’s wife took an unpaid leave of absence from work. The extent of Scott’s recovery is still unknown.
This devastating accident was not the result of any malicious intent or negligence of someone else. It was simply an accident.
Ladders are common household tools; we use them without much thought to the potential dangers. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission finds that over 150,000 ladder related injuries occur every year. One reason is that we often become complacent with routine or tasks we have done many times before; to use a popular sports metaphor — we simple “take our eyes off the ball.”
Whether you use a ladder because you are a do-it-yourself kind of person or simple need to reach a high cabinet, replace a light bulb, clear away the cobwebs, clean the gutters or hang the Christmas lights, ladder safety is important.
- Follow manufacturer use instruction labels on ladders.
- Always place your ladder on level ground and a firm, solid surface. If you must put the ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder’s feet.
- The weight your ladder is supporting should not exceed its maximum load.
- Use a ladder that is the proper length for the job. Proper length is a minimum of 3 feet extending over the roofline or working surface.
- Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at about a 75-degree angle. Follow the safety graphic on the side of the ladder that shows the proper angle.
- Keep your body centered between the side rails of the ladder at all times.
- Always keep three points of contact with the ladder: two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.
- Only place one person on the ladder at one time.
- Keep ladders away from a door that can be opened.
- All metal and fiberglass ladders should have slip-resistant feet.
- If in the vicinity of power lines or electrical equipment, only us a wooden or fiberglass ladder.
- Be sure all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged.
- Have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes.
- Never get off a ladder from the side.
- Do not stand higher than the third rung from the top. If you do, the center of gravity will become too high and the ladder will become unstable and you can easily fall.
- Don’t lean or overreach; reposition the ladder instead.
- Don’t climb while carrying tools; use a tool belt.
- Do not place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
- Do not use a ladder for any purpose other than that for which it was intended.
- Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
- Do not use extension ladders in windy or inclement weather. If bad weather arises, climb down immediately and wait for it to pass
You can find more ladder safety resources from the American Ladder Institute.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.