Beware: 'Tis the season to fall from ladders

Be careful stringing up those Christmas lights or cleaning out the gutter: November is the peak month for visiting emergency rooms because of falls from ladders.

Be careful stringing upholidaylights or cleaning out the gutter: November is the peakmonth for visiting emergency rooms because of falls from ladders.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information released its report on falls from ladders on Wednesday.

Based on 2004-05 data collected in Ontario, the report found about 8,300 people visited an emergency department because of a fall from a ladder, the institute found.

Of these, 1,231 people had to stay in hospital at least one night because of their injuries.

Most falls occur at home

Falls from ladders peaked in theautumn,as people prepared their homes for the winter or cleaned up around the garden. The season contributedthe greatest number of visits to hospital for falls from ladders, at 3,211.

This type of accidentled to 903 visits to emergency roomsduring the month— an average of 30 visits a day across the province, the institute said.

Most incidents involving ladders, 66 per cent,occurred at home. Construction and industrial sites were next, with18 per cent of cases.

People between 40 and 59 accounted for nearly halfthe visits, and men made up 82 per cent of emergency patients who were injured by falling from a ladder.

The most common injuries seen were:

  • Fractures of the leg or ankle, 43 per cent.
  • Broken upper limbs, 30 per cent.

Falls are the prime cause of hospitalization for injuries in Ontario and Canada.

Giving a moment'sthought can save a lifetime of pain, saidPhilip Groff,director of research and evaluation for SmartRisk, a non-profit group dedicated to reducing injuries.

Groff's recommendations include:

  • Use a CSA-approved ladder.
  • Do notclimbabove the ladder's highest maximum-step rating.
  • Always keep three points of contact on the ladders: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
  • Keep yourcentre of gravity onthe ladder. Your belt buckle should not pass over its sides.
  • Place the bottom of the ladder one metre out from the wall or other structure for every four metres up. Don't bring the bottom of the ladder out more than one-third the distance up.
  • Put the ladder on a smooth, dry, level surface.
  • Check for hazards such as overhead wires or a door that might open.
  • Climb facing the ladder.
  • Wear sturdy footwear.
  • Consider using a buddy to keep the ladder steady.

Toprevent overreaching,hang a bucketfrom the ladder or over the shoulder in which to put leaves from an eavestrough, Groff suggested.

The popularity of TV home-renovation programs may be encouraging more people to head up ladders to paint, clean windows and repair roofs, said Margaret Keresteci, CIHI's manager of clinical registries.

Keresteci herself conceded to falling off a ladder while doing household chores.

"I have to confess I've done the same thing," said Keresteci. "I had a very bad break in my wrist from exactly that, trying to put Christmas lights up on a second-floor gable," in November 2003.

"I overreached, I didn't get down and move the ladder. I reached sideways and fell."

CIHIisa non-profit organization established by the health ministers. Itcollects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available.

With files from the Canadian Press