Understanding Employer Liability for Ladder Failures


Ladder failures and worker errors are common causes of falls from heights in the workplace. In 2017, 34,000 people died in falls and 8,700,000 more suffered personal injuries. Many of these occur on the worksite and while people perform work on their homes. From 2011 to 2016, 3,273 workers lost their lives in falls from heights. Ladder accidents are preventable and employers in Colorado have a duty of care that requires protecting employees from harm. Those who don't take precautions bear significant employer liability for the personal injuries including spinal injuries, wrongful deaths, and property damage that result from their negligent actions.

Causes of Ladder Falls

Ladders can falter and fail for any number of reasons. The ladder can be positioned against the wall at the wrong angle. This is responsible for nearly 40% of ladder-related injuries. The ladder can be too short for the required job, or it can have an insufficient weight rating. With age, ladders wear out and parts failures can cause the ladder to crumple and collapse.

Keeping Workers Safe From Harm

Employers can protect their workers by following a few simple steps on the worksite. These include the following:

  • Issue a properly sized ladder for the job. Ladders provided to employees should be able to reach the required height and bear the required load.
  • Train employees in ladder setup. Workers should know how to properly stabilize and secure the ladder. In particular, they must be trained to always place the ladder on a firm, level footing.
  • Train employees in ladder usage. Employees should also know how to safely climb the ladder and should be provided with pulleys and other load-lifting systems that reduce their need to carry tools and supplies up the ladder as they climb. Employers can reduce their employer liability by ensuring that workers are trained to maintain three points of contact on the ladder at all times while climbing.
  • Monitor employee behaviors. Site managers, foremen, and others with managerial duties should closely monitor the physical condition and use of ladders.
  • Repair or replace damaged ladders. Ladder lifespans range from a few years to several decades depending on maintenance. When aluminum, wood, or fiberglass ladders are beyond their safe use limits they should be replaced when repairs won't correct deficiencies.

Contact Sloat & Nicholson, P.C. in Boulder for more information about employer liability and steps you can take to reduce the risk of falls in the workplace.