Home ladder safety needed

June 2020

As many householders make the most of extra time at home to catch up on chores and maintenance, the risk of a trip to emergency due to accidental injury can increase.

Ladder-related falls are a common reason for hospital emergency department (ED) presentations and are often avoidable.

Research funded by the Emergency Medicine Foundation and recently published in PLOS One found that falling off a ladder can impact mental health in the long term, especially in older males. The world first study led by Dr Gabrielle Wood and Dr Ogilvie Thom at Nambour Hospital investigated long-term impacts from ladder falls.

The researchers followed 134 Queenslanders who presented to the ED at Nambour General Hospital and Princess Alexandra Hospital over a period of 12 months after falling from a ladder. They found that most ladder fall incidents occurred while people were doing household maintenance.

The patients spent an average of five days in hospital with the most common injuries including fractures of the spine, ribs, tibia, fibula, radius, ulna and pelvis, or a collapsed lung (pneumothorax).

Males over 55 years old were found to be at higher risk, making up more than half of cases, and often experiencing sleeping problems, anxiety, depression and pain for six months after the fall.

The researchers used the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL) scale to measure the patients’ physical and psychological recovery over time. They found that of those who were employed, 80 per cent required at least four weeks off work, and 16 per cent were unable to return or perform their normal function after six months.

The study also involved University of Queensland (UQ), and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and according to Dr Rob Eley from UQ, the study highlights the need for improved safety and injury prevention strategies in the community, including education.

“Our research reinforces the need for mandated safety instructions, as well as safety features including rubber feet, hooks, extender arms, fasteners and stabilisers,” Dr Eley said.

“The community needs to do more to educate people that it’s OK to request help from others or employ home service contractors to complete tasks around the home that require a ladder.”

For more information visit the research page here.


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