Ladder warnings step up as injuries climb

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Tis the season to make sure the ladders are secure before hanging Christmas decorations or lights.

Injuries have been known to rise over the summer as Australians head into the holiday season with an increase in transport and weather-related injuries, as well as drownings.

Hanging Christmas lights and cleaning gutters can be dangerous and healthcare professionals warn it’s important to take safety precautions before climbing a ladder.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released a report on Friday documenting injuries in Australia in 2020-21.

“Unfortunately there is a spike in assault hospitalizations during the summer months,” AIHW spokesman Adrian Webster said.

There were 1,200 assault-related hospitalizations at the end of December 2020, compared to 770 at the end of June 2021.

For people considering DIY projects over the summer holidays, it should be noted that in 2020-21 there were 6,600 hospitalizations due to falls from ladders and 17,500 due to contact with tools or machines.

There were around 1,600 injury-related hospitalizations every day – a 7% increase from 1,500 a day in 2018-19 before COVID.

The report documents injuries requiring hospitalization, but does not include emergency room presentations that do not require hospitalization.

Ken McCroary of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says he has seen dozens of injuries from ladder accidents due to improper or incorrect use.

Ladder accidents can have lasting consequences even if the injuries seem minor.

“You don’t have to fall far to sustain a serious injury. One to two meters can be enough,” Dr McCroary said.

“Common injuries include fractured limbs, spinal cord injuries or severe brain damage. Falls from ladders can even lead to death.”

He says people should never use a ladder alone. Having someone holding the ladder is the safest option and also ensures that someone is there to call for help in the event of an accident.

The AMA’s Elizabeth Marles says people should make sure to work within easy reach of the ladder and avoid grabbing heavy objects.

“Many patients have bad falls because they overstretched,” Dr. Marles said.

“You should never have to bend over too far. If you can’t reach it, get down and reposition the ladder.”

Placing the ladder on dry, firm ground, engaging all locks and tie-downs, and avoiding rainy or windy conditions are other safety measures to consider to prevent potential accidents.

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