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17 Dec 2020

Triple extension ladder

A surgeon from Portsmouth recently stated that he was 'lucky to be alive' after suffering an eighteen-foot fall. Professor Peter Brennan's rubber-footed ladder slipped while he was cleaning his gutters, resulting in what he called the "most terrifying 2 seconds of my life", followed by "lots of injuries and multiple fractures".

As we've discussed previously on this blog, there are several precautions you can take to reduce the risk of ladder slippage - but Prof. Brennan "checked and double checked" to make sure that his ladder was safe, and he endured a nasty fall nonetheless.

This goes to show that, no matter how careful you are, you can never be 100% sure that an accident will not occur. So what should you do if you're standing on a ladder and, in spite of all safety measures, it begins to fall?


How to respond when your ladder begins to fall

Obviously, if you do fall off a ladder, you've only got a second or two to respond. Try to follow AARP's tips for falling safely:

  • Try not to reach out - Your instinct may be to reach out with 'locked' arms to try and stop yourself hitting the ground, but falling on an outstretched hand often results in injury.

  • Protect your head - Head injuries can be especially life threatening, so preventing your head from hitting the ground should be a priority. If you're falling backwards, tuck your chin to your chest.

  • Aim to land on a meaty part of your body - Landing on your back, thigh or bottom (instead of on a bony part of the body) will spread the impact of the fall and reduce your risk of broken bones.

  • Keep falling - Instead of trying to stop moving ASAP, try to go with the momentum of the fall. Going into a roll when you hit the ground is another way to spread the impact out.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we strongly recommend taking every possible precaution beforehand to make a fall as unlikely as possible.

Be sure to inspect your ladder carefully before use (see How Often Should Ladders Be Inspected?) and refrain from using a ladder that is visibly damaged or worn. When leaning a ladder against a wall, use the '1 in 4' rule, and plan for the worst - for example, how can you ensure the softest possible landing in the event of a fall?

How to Climb Ladders Safely   How to Stop Ladders Slipping