Ladder safety: A rung too many, a reach too far

Every week Aussies tackle a range of home maintenance tasks and feel a great sense of pride over a job well done.

DIY jobs at home often involve using a ladder. It is troubling that older Aussie men are suffering serious and even life threatening injuries after falling from ladders. Around 1,600 men aged over 65 are hospitalised each year with ladder-related injuries, with most occurring while doing maintenance work at home.  A third of those admitted to hospital need intensive care. Shockingly, a quarter of these intensive care patients die, and of those who do survive, over half are not well enough to live at home after 12 months.

These statistics show just how serious ladder safety is. A national education campaign is underway to help reduce ladder-related injuries, particularly in older men working in and around the home. While Aussie men know how to use a ladder safely, the campaign encourages us to consider the consequences before engaging in risky ladder use.

The campaign features the stories of three Aussie men whose lives were turned upside-down by split-second decisions on a ladder.

Paul fell from his ladder while over-reaching to sand the last few weatherboards on the side of his house. He fractured his ribs, punctured a lung and still has considerable back pain.

“Once upon a time I could spend all day doing quite vigorous work, now I can only spend a short amount of time… my back pain slows me down.”

Mick used two ladders and a plank to create a trestle so he could trim hedges. The ladders gave way and Mick fell more than two metres, hitting his head on a windowsill on the way down. He broke four ribs, broke his C6 vertebrae and fractured another five, and his head swelled ‘like a bowling ball’. Mick still tries to help around the house, but he has trouble lifting, mowing the lawn and sleeping due to ongoing back pain.

“What if I’d been bedridden or confined to a wheelchair my entire life.”

Nick didn’t stabilise his ladder when he decided to check a leaking roof. Like most of us, he thought he’d be right and it wouldn’t take long. But half way up, he fell. He suffered a brain bleed, a fractured back, pressure on his spinal nerves, and a blockage in an artery to his lung and lung scarring. Nick’s wife and son now care for him as he continues his slow recovery.  

“Dad is not the same person he used to be. He’s constantly worrying about whether he will get better. The longer it takes, the more depressed he gets.”

These stories are a reminder of the things we stand to lose from a split-second decision. Instead of charging ahead with a job it is best to:

·            slow down for a moment

·            choose the right ladder for the job

·            understand your limits

·            work safely up the ladder.

You might think a ladder accident won’t happen to you and that you know what to do and how to do it. Paul, Mick and Nick did too.

When using a ladder, make safety matter.

The campaign is a joint initiative of Australia’s consumer protection agencies, including Consumer and Business Services in SA and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

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AuthorRay Dennis