Key messages

  • Ladders are dangerous. They are associated with more deaths and injuries than any other household product.
  • In recent years there has been a significant increase ladder fall injuries in the home, contrary to the declining trend of ladder falls in the workplace.
  • Men aged 60 years and older are more likely to suffer serious injuries from a ladder fall.
  • Most people know ladders are dangerous, but occasionally still take a risk or shortcut.
  • Encourage patients to make safety matter when using a ladder.

What is the issue? 

Major trauma resulting from domestic ladder falls in Victoria doubled between 2002 and 2013.

In Victoria alone, there is an average of 1330 emergency department presentations as a result of a domestic ladder fall and approximately seven men die as a result of falling from a ladder at home each year.

Admissions to Intensive Care Units due to serious head, chest and spinal injuries caused by ladder falls are increasing. Research conducted by clinicians at The Alfred Intensive Care Unit have identified that severe traumatic brain injury is responsible for the majority of deaths and for poor outcomes in survivors. After discharge from The Alfred ICU, less than half of their patients were living independently at home at 12 months post-fall. Nationally, there has also been an increase in injuries associated with ladder falls, especially among men aged 60 years or older.

The Department of Health and Human Services and Consumer Affairs Victoria have joined a national campaign to reduce serious injury from domestic ladder falls by encouraging older men to:

  • practice safe ladder use (e.g. taking the time to set up the ladder correctly, not using the ladder on wet or uneven ground or over-reaching while on the ladder)
  • consider the consequences of unsafe ladder use (e.g. serious injuries, loss of independence, or death).

By the numbers

  • Hospital admissions from domestic ladder falls are likely to be under-reported. Research undertaken in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales indicates than on average over 4000 people in these states are hospitalised each year as a result of a domestic ladder fall.
  • Of these hospitalisations, approximately three-quarters of patients are men.
  • Approximately three in five people who are hospitalised after a ladder fall suffer bone fractures. The next most common injuries are open wounds and head injuries, including concussion.
  • In addition to injuries, many people die from falling off a ladder in Australia each year. The majority of these deaths resulted from ladder use while undertaking home maintenance duties and most ladder fall deaths occur in males aged 75–84 years.

Preventing ladder falls in patients

Patients, particularly older males, should be encouraged to practice safe ladder use at all times. The Ladder Safety Matters brochure provides a practical guide for safe ladder use in the home environment. Copies of the brochure can be obtained using the online order form.