A maintenance worker suffered a fatal fall from a ladder because his employer failed to ensure ladders were secured properly and didn’t check in on him while he was working alone.
Investigators with the Washington State Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) program found that the worker didn’t properly lock in the ladder’s hinges resulting in the fall which saw him lying on the ground waiting for help for about three hours.
Home appraiser finds worker unconscious, on the ground
The maintenance worker was an employee of a property management business. He’d been working for the employer for three years doing general house maintenance.
On July 27, 2021, the maintenance worker was alone, touching up the exterior paint of a one-story house being prepared for sale.
At 1 p.m., the homeowner arrived at the house, talked with the worker and then went inside to sleep. No one else saw the worker until 7 p.m. when a home appraiser found him badly injured lying on his back.
The maintenance worker had fallen onto rocks and concrete at the base of an 18-foot fully extended portable, metal articulated ladder. The bottom half of the ladder was leaning on a 6-foot below-grade rock retaining wall near the house’s basement entrance while the top half was resting horizontally on the ground level grass surface.
After finding the maintenance worker, the appraiser called 9-1-1 and tried to wake the homeowner. When paramedics arrived the worker was bleeding from a head wound, still breathing but unresponsive. There were missed call messages on his phone that led the paramedics to estimate he was on the ground for about three hours.
The maintenance worker was airlifted to the hospital where he died the next day from severe head injuries.
Ladder wasn’t secured against accidental movement
FACE program investigators found that the employer didn’t:
- ensure the ladder was secured from accidental movement, and
- provide documented ladder safety training and an on-site safety orientation as part of its accident prevention program.
The investigators also determined that the ladder:
- wasn’t in the self-supporting position with hinges locked, which created unstable work conditions that exposed the worker to a fall of around 6 feet, and
- didn’t belong to the employer.
To prevent a similar incident from happening, FACE program investigators recommended:
- placing the ladder with a secure footing on a firm, level surface or securing it to prevent accidental displacement
- training employees to recognize ladder hazards and procedures to minimize those hazards
- developing a formal, written accident prevention program with a safety orientation that includes an on-the-job review of practices necessary to safely perform job assignments
- ensuring workers use ladders according to manufacturer safety guidelines
- providing training to workers in each type of ladder they will use, and
- supervising lone workers’ safety by visiting work sites and requiring regular phone check-ins.