Climbing the Ladder…of Death


Gravitation continues its cruel assault on the American people: 

The number of ladder-related injuries in the United States increased by more than 50 percent from 1990 to 2005, says a study in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Individuals using ladders are often not mindful of the severe risks associated with use," study co-author Lara Trifiletti, a principal investigator at CIRP and an assistant professor at Ohio State University's College of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Increased public health initiatives that target men and women, especially of working age, could help reduce the number of ladder-related injuries," she said.

"Ladders should be treated with the same respect and caution as any potentially dangerous tool, such as a power saw," co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of CIRP and an associate professor at Ohio State University's College of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

While I'm going to go ahead and oppose any tax-funded public health initiative meant to explain spacetime curvature and its consequences for DIY home repair, I am genuinely curious: Why so many more ladder-induced injuries? More ladders? Shoddy ladders? A dearth of acrophobia?

Via Ttp.  

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  1. I’d lay easy money on whatever is making people get out and use ladders more. Global warming, possibly.

  2. Remember … gravity is only a theory.

  3. As a roofing project manager, I am constantly on my guys for not wearing proper safety equipment. It boggles the mind why no one is willing to comply with NOT DYING!!!

  4. Small changes in absolute terms can be large in percentage terms if the quantity under consideration is also small.

    In other words, if this year exactly one person dies in a “bizarre gardening accident” and next year two people die in a similar “bizarre gardening accident”, that is a 100% increase, but we’re still only talking about two people on the entire fricking planet who died of that cause.

    Now, if the number of deaths went up to 10, and then 11, that would be a different matter.

  5. Call the FCC; I think “Trading Spaces” is to blame. I bet Swiffer-related accidents are up at least 75%.

  6. Nice to see that the media doesn’t bother reading any more than a research abstract to obtain an article. Though, without subscribing to the Journal I cannot read the entire article so I am a tad confused by this pair of sentences:

    The number of ladder-related injuries increased by more than 50% from 1990 to 2005. Ladder-related injuries per 100,000 people rose almost 27% during the 16-year study period.

    I suppose it makes sense if the 27% increase is in the accident average. Anyway, the average was 49.5/100k or .049% of the population was involved in a ladder related incident. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get worked up about one-half of one-percent of the population that can’t seem to figure out how to use a ladder without falling off.

  7. Then again, in light of the increasingly risk averse nature of our society, there’s only one response:

    We should invade and occupy a store that doesn’t actually sell ladders.

  8. DrT:

    but we can’t dust for vomit…

  9. My initial feeling is that it’s people inspired by the DIY shows on TLC, HGTV, DIYNetwork, etc., combined with the prevalence of better ladders (better than those old rickety wooden ones your grandad used to have) and the increasing weight of ladder users.

  10. Whoops, just realized my English to math conversion was off. It should have been read “I just can’t get worked up about one half of one-tenth of a percent.”

  11. but we can’t dust for vomit…

    Got the Spinal Tap reference, Nigel.
    BTW, I play in a band with Mick Shrimpton (Rick Parnell) who now lives in Missoula, Montana. The guy is a brilliant musician.

  12. I think it is directly related to the sub-prime lending market. Home ownership has gone up as a result of poor people getting more access to credit. As we all know, thanks to every article on predatory lenders, poor people are stupid and make bad decisions. More stupid poor people in houses equals more ladder-related injuries. Although difficult to measure, my guess is the incidence of people stepping on rakes and suffering facial injuries is also up.

  13. Clearly CIRP is in the pocket of Big Gravity.

  14. Does increased prosperity correlate with more people renovating their own homes, or more people paying others to renovate their homes?

  15. Ms Howley, step back and look for the changes in the cultural landscape. The DIY shows as mitch and Highway pointed out, as well as the DIY big-box stores: 15 years ago, sure we had hardware stores, but we didn’t have huge Home Depots and Lowe’s, whose business model and ad campaigns basically are “average homeowner, be a weekend warrior. You can do it! We can help!”

  16. Easy…
    Fat people! As Americans get more obese, we get a little less able to balance our girth on the narrow confines of the ladder. Furthermore, when we fall, we fall harder.
    A fatter society = more ladder related injuries.
    Also, those wacky hijinks that ensue when someone loses their ladder and has to hang on to the eaves or gutters of a building? Doesn’t happen with the fatties. The gutter breaks, or they just don’t have the upper arm strength to manage to hold on.

  17. Personally, I think this has something to do with the new “drunken group sex on ladders” craze.

  18. Why so many more ladder-induced injuries?

    Because we are fat slobs relative to our 1990 selves, and thus less able to navigate a simple ladder?

    Perhaps because more people own ladders than ever before? How long have those Little Giants infomercials been running?

    Ladders have also become more complicated, it seems, over the years. You forget to put all the tabs in the right places, and goodbye Charlie.

  19. everyone needs a safe ladder like this

  20. Personally, I think this has something to do with the new “climb a broken-glass-encrusted ladder in a vain attempt to impress Kerry Howley” craze.

  21. Well, Stevo (@4:49), obviously – if the ladder is on top, hier, it would be a problem.

    But proper positioning would take care of that right away.

    AND! you won’t have to worry about pesky things such as cleaning a soiled ladder afterwards. (See! Lessons learned from proper Noam Chomsky Blow Up doll care have paid off!)

  22. Obviously none of you has purchased a ladder in recent times. People are falling off ladders because they become distracted and unbalanced reading all of the warning labels.

    Not to mention how slippery that “Do Not Stand Here” label is – one foot on that and your butt is hurtling toward earth.

  23. For VM’s sake, I should point underscore that his 4:56 p.m. comment is responding to my 4:49 p.m. comment, not to my own 4:56 p.m. comment.

  24. Lol!

    Thanks, Stevo!

  25. In addition to the Trading Spaces ladder criminals lying to the public about the dangers of nicotine – oops, my mistake, I meant to say the dangers of LADDERS – I think the increasing size of the typical new American home is partially to blame.

    All those open floor plan cathedral ceiling great room houses have ceiling mounted lights that require changing. In my house growing up there was nothing you couldn’t reach with a step stool. Now you have uncoordinated people climbing incorrectly opened ladders to reach the chain on their ceiling fan. It’s a recipe for disaster.

  26. Yeeeep, my money’s on big fat drunks, too.

  27. So wait – VM wasn’t talking about properly positioning a ladder on top of Kerry Howley?

  28. As the Tick said, “Gravity is a harsh mistress.”

  29. Marc
    “Yeeeep, my money’s on big fat drunks, too.”

    I must ask, sir, that you get permission before using me as an example. Thank you

  30. Big fat drunks, working on their big houses.
    But let’s not forget “old.” More old people.

    Fat drunk old people
    Need to sell the big house, and
    Move to a condo.

  31. Kudos go to Joe
    For his real estate haiku.
    Today is good day.

  32. Joe,

    Us baptists are abstinence only. We don’t talk about condo’s , as it isn’t polite.

  33. My guess for increase:
    Ladders slicked with olive oil
    It is the new craze

  34. Isn’t it obvious? America rejects God, then ladder accidents increase. What part of “Thou shalt not” do you people not understand?

  35. Obviously, the accelerating expansion of the universe is causing the distance fallen to increase, resulting in more injuries.

    I’m surprised Dr. T missed that.

  36. Actually, joe, I can speak anecdotally about the “old” part. My father, at 62, fell off a ladder trimming branches and shattered his leg. Could be that the longer we live thanks to all the benefits of modern medicine/food safety/exercise, we forget that we are fragile creatures not designed to take a 6 foot uncontrolled fall to hard mother earth.

  37. I’m suggesting that we listen to the ladders who have attacked us and the reason they’re doing it. I’m not suggesting we’ve invited these attacks, but when you’ve been climbing all over them for the last 15 or 16 years, you have to consider that we are partly to blame.

  38. It’s the damn Werner ladders that Home Depot sells, that have the rope coming off the wrong side of the ladder, forcing you to manhandle the fully extended latter into position, rather than raising it and landing it at the same time.

    You want the rope coming off the climbing side of the ladder, not the underside.

  39. If you go out in public with ladders in your stockings you deserve whatever you get.

  40. I say, ban ladders.

    1-People can fall on other people

    2-can distress the families of fall victims

    3-manufacturers KNOW the hazards, yet build them taller and taller

    4-manufacturers have REFUSED to incorporate saftey devices, like airbags and seatbelts, despite ample proof of the hazards of bodily impacts with the ground

    5-hey! It’s up to the government to protect everyone!

    6-They violate the Americans with disabilities act.

    7-they encourage people to “get high”–especially short people who are more apt to be KIDS.

  41. I call for an immediate increase of OSHA funding to combat this menace and an expansion of its jurisdiction to homes as well as workplaces. And videos like this certainly don’t help. Be safety minded, people.

  42. It’s a conspiracy by the Church of Ladder Day Saints.

  43. It’s the unintended consequence of state laws and local ordinances that require homeowners to use only licensed, bonded contractors for any work on their homes. In the old days, if you had a minor repair needed, you knew of a couple handymen by word of mouth, and could hire one to handle the repair for a modest fee. Nowadays, you can hire a licensed, bonded contractor, who will likely be too expensive to handle minor matters, or risk fines from the local inspector for using an unlicensed contractor, and so you will attempt the repair your own stupid, clumsy self, and you will fall off a ladder.

  44. The problem is modern ladders are too well-made. Your wooden ladder of the old days, by the time you arrived at the third step, was wobbling and quivering like a willow tree in a hurricane, inhibiting the urge to climb; these new fiberglass ladders are much more stable, and therefor the unsuspecting “handyperson” is lured ever upward to his/ her doom.

  45. Even more alarming is the fact that in each and every one of the ladder victims, the concentration of Dihydrogen Monoxide in their blood was above 90.00%

  46. “I am genuinely curious: Why so many more ladder-induced injuries? More ladders? Shoddy ladders? A dearth of acrophobia?”

    I know, I know, Miss Howley, call on me…

    It is the aging population. A fall from a ladder that would not have hurt a boomer a few years ago is now more likely to result in injury. Obviously, this reflects the callousness of of our society against older people, especially older women and other minorities.

  47. China. They are making intentionally faulty ladders.

  48. What makes everyone think ladder-related injuries mean falling off a ladder? Ladder injuries could be tripping on a ladder placed on the ground, using a ladder for a purpose for which it wasn’t intended (like a makeshift scaffold plank), dropping a ladder on your foot, or getting your finger caught in the hinge, not to mention the rest of the myriad really silly things you can do with and around a ladder.

  49. I blame most accidents on two things: carelessness and creativity. Carelessness is obvious. I’ve worked with engineers long enough to see firsthand the amount of damage creativity can do. (grins)

  50. They can have my ladder when they pry it out of my cold, dead fingers after I’ve fallen and can’t get up.

  51. I think most people who fall off ladders are probably like me: clumsy. I fell out of the attic a few years back – straight through the insulation and flat on my back to the kitchen floor below – fortunately, there was nothing between me and the kitchen floor (seriously – people have died this way). How’d I fall out of the attic? Well, I thought I was here, but I was actually there, and there was not floored. My husband has spent untold hours toiling in the unfloored places of our attic and, of course, he’s never come close to falling. Cos he’s not clumsy.

    So now I’m not allowed in the attic and everyone would be happier if I stayed off ladders as well, which I do (usually). No amount of federally mandated warnings would make me safe on a ladder – I know how not to fall off. I just can’t help it.

  52. What makes everyone think ladder-related injuries mean falling off a ladder? Ladder injuries could be tripping on a ladder placed on the ground, using a ladder for a purpose for which it wasn’t intended (like a makeshift scaffold plank), dropping a ladder on your foot, or getting your finger caught in the hinge, not to mention the rest of the myriad really silly things you can do with and around a ladder.

    I think you’re also overlooking the obvious “Stooge carrying a ladder over his shoulder onto a crowded elevator scenario,” in which said Stooge is addressed by another Stooge, causing Stooge 1 to turn abruptly in Stooge 2’s direction, unwittingly conking Stooge 3 in the noggin. This in turn causes Stooge 3 to say, “Hey, watch it!” in response to which Stooge 1 turns abrubtly in Stooge 3’s direction, unwittingly conking Stooge 1 in the noggin. This can continue indefinitely, and therefore the noggin-conking incidents could theoretically reach infinity.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know how to reconcile this scenario with the rising incidence of ladder accidents at the same time the population of official Stooges is in fact declining.

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