Ladders are portable systems of steps or rungs utilized to provide temporary access to otherwise inaccessible points or places. They have been used by man for over 10,000 years, as evidenced by cave paintings discovered in Spain.
Ladders can be rigid, such as those used for the painting of high walls and ceilings, or rope, such as those used over the side of a boat or for emergency escape through windows. Rigid ladders are safer and easier to use, as rope ladders tend to swing forward and back during use, requiring some skill and strength to safely navigate. Rigid ladders were originally designed and constructed in wood, but modern versions are primarily aluminum due to its lighter weight and durability.
General hazards associated with the use of ladders include:
Manufacturer defects and design deficiencies contribute to ladder injuries and death in some cases. Some examples of concerns include:
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries per year related to the use of ladders. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) attributes about 175,000 emergency room visits per year to ladder use.
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, over 2.2 million people were injured in ladder accidents between 1990 and 2005. About 10 percent of those injuries required hospitalization. Ninety seven percent of ladder injuries occur during home use. The most typically seen injuries are fractures of the hands, feet, wrists and ankles, which often require multiple surgeries and long periods of rehabilitation. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 300 people die each year from ladder injuries.