NIOSH LODD Report: Los Angeles Firefighter Falls from Aerial Ladder

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention
NIOSH LODD Report: Los Angeles Firefighter Falls from Aerial Ladder
Positioning of apparatus and aerial ladder. (NIOSH/department photo)

On June 3, 2017, a 29-year-old career fire fighter fell carrying a “roof kit” (two six-foot trash hooks strapped together with webbing for shoulder carry) up an aerial ladder during a training exercise. At the morning role call, the company was informed they would be conducting a training evolution later that morning simulating a fire incident on the fourth floor of a local six-story hotel. The training involved an aerial ladder, two engine companies, and a rescue, all from the same station. 

Read the Report:
Career Fire Fighter Falls from Aerial Ladder While Carrying Roof Kit During Training

The fire fighters wore their personal protective equipment (PPE), including their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Many of the fire fighters were in acting positions and had transitioned to their acting roles prior to arriving at the hotel.

The apparatus operator properly positioned the aerial ladder in front of the hotel and raised the aerial ladder at a 73-degree angle, and extended the 100-foot ladder to 86 feet, which placed the tip of the ladder near the roof line. The engine companies pulled hoselines and entered the hotel to ascend to the fourth floor. The truck company was to ascend the aerial ladder, enter the hotel through the roof bulkhead door, and descend to the fourth floor. 

The fire fighter who was first to ascend (the top member) grabbed the roof kit cradling it on his left shoulder, and stepped onto the pedestal. The top member began to ascend, and as soon as the tiller member saw the top member reach the top of the bed section of the aerial ladder, the tiller member began to ascend. The tiller member entered the inner mid-section of the aerial ladder and noticed the top member had stopped approximately 60 feet up the aerial ladder, to adjust the roof kit on his shoulder. Then the tiller member noticed that the apparatus operator was starting to ascend behind him. 

The tiller member heard a yell and looked up to see the top member falling down the left side of the ladder. The tiller member tucked in close to the ladder as the top member brushed by him and landed on the deck portion of the apparatus below. He was attended to by on-scene paramedics and transported to the local trauma center. On June 5, 2017, the fire fighteer succumbed to his injuries.

Contributing Factors:

  • Loss of three-point contact carrying roof kit
  • Life belts not used
  • Overall weight of PPE and tools
  • Angle of aerial ladder

Key Recommendations:

  • Fire departments should ensure that carrying methods for equipment/tools are safe and secure.
  • Fire departments should ensure that a designated safety officer is appointed for training evolutions.
  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters minimize risks by using a life belt any time they stop to do work while ascending/descending an aerial ladder.
  • Fire departments should ensure that the overall weight of equipment/tools does not compromise safety.
  • Fire departments should ensure that the placement of aerial ladders yields the optimal climbing angle for fire fighter safety.
  • Fire departments should ensure that all standard operating guidelines are reviewed and updated regularly.

Pennwell