Underlying causal factors associated with construction worker fatalities involving stepladders

Aneurin Thomas James Grant, Jimmie Wayne Hinze


Stepladders are frequently utilized on construction projects as a means of access to elevation. Stepladder heights commonly range from 4 feet (1.2 m) to 14 feet (4.3 m). Since these heights are not extreme, there is a common misperception that stepladder use presents a low risk. On the contrary, extreme care must be exercised to ensure that work on stepladders is performed safely, as described in the conspicuously located recommendations and brightly-colored warnings that adorn virtually all newly-purchased equipment. Despite this, accidents involving stepladders occur on a regular basis.  This study was conducted to better understand the underlying causes of these accidents. The narrative descriptions of 180 stepladder-related fatalities were obtained from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and were analyzed to identify the at-risk behaviors that preceded the fatality incidents. The results showed that most of the incidents should have been anticipated and could have been avoided. Unsafe practices such as improper lockout-tagout of electrical equipment, loss of balance, working on a folded stepladder, over-reaching, straddling the ladder, “walking” the ladder, poor footing, and unstable/shifting ladders, among others were identified. Virtually all of these fatalities could have been avoided by adhering to the guidelines posted on the stepladders and by complying with basic safe construction practices.



Accident causation, construction worker fatalities, safe work practices, stepladders

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