Ladder safety

During 2014 in Australia, 1668 people aged 65 years and over were hospitalized because they fell from a ladder, over 80% of those who fell were male. Ladder related injuries among men aged 65 years and older is steadily increasing in Australia. The rise in these ladder related falls is linked to the ageing baby boomer population and the popularity of DIY building reality television shows such as The Block.

Those aged over 65 tend to fall from ladders at lower heights and mostly in the home environment. Studies show this population group sustain more severe injuries with higher hospital admission rates. The injury pattern in older patients shows a higher incidence of traumatic brain injuries and injuries to the trunk. A recent article by the Alfred Hospital, has shown only 43% of people who had extremely serious injuries, were able to care for themselves at home one year after the accident.

So how do we prevent these ladder related falls from happening??

Make sure your ladder is safe and right for the job

  • Use a Standards-approved ladder (Australian Standard AS/NZS 1892).
  • Read the manufacturer’s advice and follow safety warnings.
  • Check that your ladder is in good working order (for example, ensure it is free of rust, has non-slip safety feet, and that safety locks and braces are in place).
  • Make sure the ladder is rated for the weight you need it to carry – your weight, the weight of tools and supplies, and any objects placed on the ladder).
  • Make sure that the ladder you choose is right for the task.

Work in the right conditions

  • Work up a ladder in suitable weather conditions (for example, a hot day may cause you to get dizzy and lose balance, a wet day may cause you or the ladder to slip, high winds could cause the ladder to fall).
  • Make sure your ladder is not placed in front of outward-opening doors or windows.

Take the time to set up your ladder safely

  • Place the ladder on dry, firm and level ground.
  • Always ensure the ladder is locked firmly into place before use.
  • Make sure the ladder is the right height for the job.
  • If you’re working on an extension ladder, ensure it reaches about one metre above the surface it rests against and secure it at the top.

Work safely up the ladder

  • Wear non-slip footwear.
  • Work within your arm’s reach and avoid leaning out – it is much safer to get down and readjust the ladder.
  • 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.
  • Only climb as far as the second step from the top of a step ladder or the third step/rung from the top of an extension ladder.
  • The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons recommended those over 65 should wear bike helmets when climbing ladders.

Know your limits

  • Work within your limits and make sure another person is at home while you are working with a ladder, in case you need help.
  • Have another person around to hold the ladder to prevent it from slipping.
  • If you are affected by medication, have a medical condition that could affect your strength or balance, or if you just don’t feel well, leave the task for another day or ask someone to help.
  • If you are 65 years or older (or 50 years or older and of Aboriginal descent) and you need assistance with basic maintenance around your home, contact My Aged Care by calling 1800 200 422 or visiting My Aged Care.

Maintain Adequate Strength, Mobility and Balance 

  • Home Health Rehab can provide you with an individualized strength and balance program to improve your physical capabilities. Please contact us for more information about how physiotherapy can help.


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