Case of the Month: A Ladder Fall

Jul 1, 2015 by

The homeowner’s son was painting the eaves of his father’s home using an extension ladder belonging to his father. The ladder slipped, the son fell, and was injured. GEI was assigned to examine the site and the ladder, and determine the cause of the fall.

Our expert visited the site, interviewed the father, and examined the fallen ladder and surrounding areas.

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The subject ladder was a Werner 16 foot aluminum extension ladder, Model D-1216-2. The father set the ladder up against the eaves as it had been positioned at the time of the accident. The accident site was over the back door of the residence, and the ladder feet were placed on the level concrete walkway, as they had been when the son fell.

Our expert observed, examined, and measured witness marks (or gouges/scratches) on the concrete sidewalk which matched the feet of the ladder. The beginning of the witness marks were 78 inches from the wall where the ladder was placed.

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The maximum length of the ladder when fully extended was 134 inches (or 11.16 feet). When the ladder was fully extended and the feet were placed at the beginning of the witness marks, the ladder rested against the wall at an angle of 54 degrees.

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The ladder clearly had warning labels that specified that the ladder was not to be used at an angle of less than 75 degrees.

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An examination of the ladder showed no mechanical defects, and only minor wear and tear of the safety instructions and warning labels. Our expert concluded that the ladder was being used at its greatest extension to reach the eave that was being painted and was placed at a shallower angle, 54 degrees, than the minimum specified angle of 75 degrees.  This allowed the ladder to slip when the son approached or reached the top of the ladder.

The fully extended ladder could have fit under the eaves without creating an excessively shallow angle, if the son had taken the time to correctly position the feet. If the top of the ladder was in an area that needed to be painted, then the son should have shortened the ladder to maintain the correct angle against the wall. This accident was preventable and was caused by the son’s failure to correctly position the ladder’s feet.

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