Why ladder education is important
March 6, 2023
By Little Giant Ladders for the Blue Print
By Little Giant Ladders for the Blue Print
For the last seven years, March has marked the American Ladder Institute’s (ALI) National Ladder Safety Month. The purpose of the awareness-raising event is to promote safe ladder practices at home and at work through informative broadcasts, national dialogue, and training resources.
In this article, we’ll be going over the importance of ladder training.
Not the end-all solution
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: if the number of people who have died from ladder falls has tripled over the past decade, does that mean fall-protection education programs are failing? Does safety training even work?
The answer is complicated.
We’ll start with the good news: targeted training consistently reduces injuries. For example, a 2009 study in The Ergonomics Open Journal followed the effects of safety training programs in manufacturing establishments on “days-away-from-work” injuries. Their findings were conclusive: barring overexertion injuries (which are very resistant to educational programs). Establishments with formal safety training have a lower rate of contact and fall injuries where those injuries occur. In particular, fall injuries were reduced by about two events per 10,000.
The bad news is these results are often considered modest or even statistically insignificant. Decreases can range from 12% reductions in accident claims to the above example in Ergonomics Open, which resulted in a less than 1% decrease in fall accident probability. In general, researchers frequently conclude that other methods of accident prevention are more effective than training.
In a 2020 study from the Journal of Safety Research on preventing fall-from-height injuries in construction, a group of researchers studied the Working at Heights (WAH) standard implemented in Ontario, Canada and compared 2017 accident reports with those in 2012 to 2014, before the standard was created. Lynda Robson et al. concluded that “the present study has provided an example of mandatory training regulations being effective in reducing the incidence of a targeted type of injury. However, we note that, as is typical of training interventions, the effects were modest and did not eliminate the problem.”
Dr. Hongwei Hsiao, former Chief of the Protective Technology Branch for the National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH), gathered a number of studies in his book on fall prevention. He explains that “rule-based control strategies,” or training strategies which require formal education, are simply not as effective as engineering-based solutions: “Integrating safety-in-design principles and solutions is the most efficient approach to reducing incidents and injuries associated with the use of any product.”
In other words, while training can be effective, it’s neither a perfect solution nor the solution we should reach for first.
The new worker clause
There’s a notable exception in the 2020 study from the Journal of Safety Research: “While training is a fundamental component of managing OSH risks, and may be especially important for workers new to their job (Dong et al., 2004), it is considered by OSH professionals to be less effective than other risk controls such as hazard elimination, hazard substitution, and engineering.”
The report is referring to an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) on work-related injuries among construction workers. When controlled for demographic factors, workers from 16 to 24 years old see much greater benefits from training programs. In fact, the numbers jump from a 12% reduction in worker’s compensation claims to a 42% reduction. The same study controlled for workers who were in the first year of their job and found similar results: training becomes much more significant when you’re younger and newer to your job.
That makes JATCs (Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees) and other trade schools’ prime locations for training.
The future of fall prevention
The ladder industry is beginning to see a training revolution. The ALI reports that awareness of ladder misuse is increasing—6% from 2018 to 2020. 61% of accident and safety manager respondents feel that incidents could have been avoided with the proper training. And 92% of participating ALI organizations consider ladder safety training important to extremely important.
Basically, both trades workers and the public are becoming more aware of how dangerous ladders can be. That awareness is driving change across the industry: in engineering, manufacturing, and in training programs. And while training isn’t always the most effective solution, it continues to prevent injuries and save lives, and we’re only getting better at it.
Content originally from Little Giant Ladders. Reused here with permission.