Safety Considerations and Maintenance
Ladder injuries are something they never tell you on home-improvement shows and in shops. However, you need to be sure your ladder can do the job. This guide will show you how to choose between different types of ladders without compromising on safety.
Safety is the priority. When you use a ladder, put it at the correct angle so that the foot is one measure out from the wall. Add one foot for every four measure of the height, for example if you need a ladder to reach 5.2m eaves, the foot should be approximately 1.3m from the wall. In order to check if everything is correct stand with your toes touching the feet of the ladder. Put out your arms. You should grasp the rungs somewhere at shoulder height.
Inspect and Maintain Regularly. We are going to discuss different ladder materials later in this guide. Depending on them, oil, water or other liquids and substances can damage the ladder posing safety hazards. Wipe everything from steps and rails before you start using the ladder, and clean everything after each use.
Keep bolts tightened but don't overdo this. If you have an extension ladder, inspect it for hinges and check the lanyard for fraying. You will need to place the lanyard from time to time, so follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Aluminum ladders shouldn't have any dents, bent parts or rivets. Fiberglass ladders can have chips, missing parts or cracks. Wooden ladders can lose rungs or steps and also have splits and chips. Any of these problems could lead to failure and requires fixing or replacing the ladder.
There are four main types of the ladders - folding ladders, step ladders, rigid ladders and multi-purpose ladders. Safety and height depend on the type of a ladder, thus you should carefully choose the right one.
Folding Ladders and Step ladders - Step ladders are the ones you can find in many homes, they are lightweight, small and compact, because you can fold them up and places in small areas. Choose this ladder if you're going to work around low heights, such as the top of walls or ceilings, as it can be used for many purposes such as painting the ceiling. Step ladders are often smaller than folding ladders: they can be higher than 4 or 5m. Folding models are heavier and more durable and made of fiberglass or aluminum. Their stability rates are also higher. These ladders create a four-legged base when you fold them out, which is helpful when you can't lean the ladder against the wall. Check the weight-load capacity before buying one. The importance of weight capacity is discussed below.
Rigid Ladders - Rigid ladders are single ladder rails that should be lean against the wall or other solid objects. These ladders can be used for reaching high areas but are often less stable as folding or step ladders. Rigid ladders are made of wood, fiberglass or aluminum. Rigid ladders often offer the most height but it's recommended to have somebody to secure the ladder while you're standing on it.
Multi-Purpose Ladders - There are ladders that can be transformed and rearranged into different shapes to suit all needs of the person using it. These ladders can be also called as combi-ladders and are perfect for different purposes such as working in low spaces and hard to reach areas and roofing. However, these ladders use joints for maximum flexibility, which does cut down the strength of the ladder.
After choosing the type of the ladder, consider the features you'll need. Here are the major ones.
• Aluminum ladders can handle a lot, but they should never be used near voltage sources such as power lines because they conduct electricity. Choose a wooden or fiberglass ladder for those situations. And remember that any ladder can conduct electricity when it's wet.
• Wood ladders are decorative, affordable and functional being the most traditional options out of all types. Wooden ladders are perfect for electricity-related works since they're nonconductive, unlike their aluminum counterparts. Some wooden ladders, however, often have metal parts, which make them unsuitable for electrical work. Wood ladders shouldn't be painted, since paint can conceal defects or damage that indicate that the ladder isn't safe and should be replaced. Treat your wooden ladder with a sealant that protects from moisture and other substances.
• Metal ladders are durable, strong and resistant to corrosion, which makes them perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. There are lightweight options available, making them easier to transport. However, one of the drawbacks to this type of ladders is their ability to conduct electricity. While metal ladder can be used outside and inside, it's important not to use it around power lines. If you prefer a metal ladder, make sure to look for rubber or plastic feet to ensure more stability.
• Fiberglass ladders are the most recent type and they are good for almost all types of work, thanks to their durability, strength, and non-corrosive nature of the material. These ladders will last you a long time. And unlike ladders made of steel or aluminum, fiberglass doesn't conduct electricity and are perfect for using in areas near power lines and performing electrical work. Fiberglass ladders are the most expensive, so people that don't perform electrical works still prefer aluminum or wooden ladders.
Choose a ladder that high enough for all types of work that you're going to perform - you should be able to reach everything up in a way that don't destabilize the ladder. Indeed, if you step on one of the highest steps on the ladder, the risks for accidents will significantly increase. An extension ladder should be at least three feet about the work surface (a roofline, for example).
If you need a ladder for professional use, purchase the strongest type available in the height you need in order to ensure the ladder will be useful across different projects. Heavy duty ladders often last longer, ensure greater stability, and much safer when something heavy should be taken up the ladder. However, a person who plans to use the ladder occasionally at home can invest in a cheaper, lightweight model.
• House ladders usually have a label telling you the maximum weight they're designed to support. This is a voluntary rating that is based on a standard developed by the American National Standards Institute that has three main types. To meet the standard and get the label, a ladder's step should resist bending under a load up to three times of its weight rating. It should also pass a side-twisting test. But even though those tests ensure safety, the added stresses of real life use (such as weight shifting or climbing) add more to the load.
• Domestic ladders are produced for DIY home projects, these are the weakest and the lightest ladders you can buy. They can be perfect for the occasional use at home and can't be used in the workplace. Moreover, using them in a work or commercial environment contravenes Health and Safety regulations. Even insurance companies state that using this type of ladders or steps for commercial work will invalidate all claims for personal injury. They often have a duty rating around 15 stones. These ladders are made of thin aluminum and designed to be small, economical and lightweight.
• Trade ladders are produced from stronger gauge materials to withstand frequent usage by regular home users or tradesmen. They follow the EN131 European wide standard for aluminum ladders. Trade ladders represent the most popular grade of aluminum ladders that you can find on the market. Their maximum load is approximately 24 stones and they are perfect for use both in the workplace and at home.
• Industrial ladders are the heaviest models available. They are also called Class 1 ladders and represent the best strength and quality ladders you can possibly find. Usually reserved for complicated, frequent industrial work, these steps and ladders are designed for industrial applications and heavy site work. They are available in many sizes and often come with the option of rope operation. Industrial ladders are suitable for use everywhere, be it the workplace, home, factory or building site. Their maximum load rate is 28 stones. However, regular home owners usually don't need industrial ladders.
There are a number of factors that influence the final cost of the ladder. The type of the ladder, its material and weight capacity play the most important role and the price may vary from $30 for the lightweight ladder to 500 for a heavy model.