Week 1 Choosing Your Ladder
Ladders and stepladders are familiar tools used in many businesses on a weekly, if not daily, basis, ranging from basic tasks like retrieving goods from a shelf to checking building systems located within ceiling voids. According to HSE statistics, many workplace accidents involve working at height, so we wanted to share with you the various types of ladders available, along with some tips on how to choose them correctly.
In the TB Davies range, we offer many different ladder types, including stepstools, stepladders, extension ladders, telescopic ladders, combi-ladders, multi-function ladders….to name a few. Safe ladder use is dependent on using the correct ladder for the job.
Ladders are typically manufactured from a variety of materials, predominantly aluminium or glass fibre, depending on the nature of the work. Glass fibre products are frequently chosen for electrical work due to their insulating properties and are also warmer to the touch than metal, so can provide greater handgrip safety in colder situations.
Here are our top three considerations in selecting the correct ladder:
- Select the right ladder type.
- Select the right ladder height and reach.
- Choosing the proper grade / manufacturing standard of the ladder.
- Selecting the Right Type of Ladder
Ladders are safety–critical devices and selecting the correct product is one of the most overlooked aspects of safe work at height. Ladders come in many shapes and sizes with the three main types, and their sub-variations as follows:
- Leaning ladder
- Stepladders & Step Stools
- Multi-function or combi-ladders
- Leaning Ladders
We often refer to these as ‘grandpa’s ladder’ because they haven’t changed since the days we used them to storm castle walls, except that nowadays anything longer than three metres in length will have a base that is wider than the top, thus aiding stability and safety.
This group also contains telescopic ladders that are compact and easy to store. The Xtend+Climb range has a valuable feature where the stabiliser will also fold away for storage and transport.
The most modern extension ladders like the Hyperlite range from Little Giant will include folding stabilisers that can adjust on uneven ground. The standard stipulates that ladders should be used on level ground. However, this is rarely the case in most real-world scenarios, and fixed stabilisers can hinder rather than help keep the ladder stable.
Consider the type of stabiliser you require on your ladder if you plan to use them in locations where ground conditions are likely to be uneven or on slopes.
- Step Ladders & Step Stools
Stepladders are designed to be a free-standing product, and so do not need walls for support. Popular in the building trade, A-frame or swing back steps are commonly used, and feature treads up to the top cap. The simple and rugged design makes them popular for inspection and straightforward light-duty tasks like changing a bulb or knocking in a nail.
Platform steps have a larger storage area for tools, tins of paint etc, but should still mainly be considered for shorter duration tasks taking less than half an hour. The high parapet provides an additional handhold for three points of contact, and many feature a handy tool tray to keep tools, screws and fixings safe whilst you work.
Step stools generally have much larger, more comfortable treads, with a platform of the same size. Our Little Giant Jumbo & Safety Step models include a folding handrail and an integrated tool tray that folds for storage and transport.
- Multi-Function or Combi-Ladders
The multi-function ladder incorporates lockable hinge joints, often with extending or folding stiles to function in several ways, including as a leaning ladder, as step ladders with evenly extended or asymmetrical sides for use on stairs and slopes. Our Litle Giant ladders have become synonymous with this design, featuring sliding stile sections coupled with a rugged build, sections that can be split to form a trestle system with the specially designed Little Giant extendable scaffolding plank, and safety features such as levelling stabilisers. In combination, our Little Giant range redefines what consumers should expect from a Multi-Function Ladder.
Combi-ladders come in two and three-section varieties and are similar in many ways to conventional extension ladders except for a guide that allows the rear section to pull out, allowing the ladder to operate as a free-standing step. This feature enables the user to reach higher areas, such as lighting or window fittings in sports halls and arenas.
- Selecting the Right Ladder Height
The working height of a ladder is not the same as it’s open or extended length. When assessing your requirements, you should consider these three points:
- Allow for the correct working angle of the ladder of 70 to 75 degrees
- The highest point you intend to stand on the ladder (normally leaving top three rungs free on an extension ladder).
- The overlap of the ladder sections.
You need to leave the top three rungs free on an extension ladder, this will provide you with a safe handhold about a metre up from your feet. If you use the ladder to access to a roof, for an inspection, or for access to another level, then the ladder must be long enough to extend three rungs or one metre beyond the roofline.
When using step ladders or combination ladders in the stepladder mode, there will be a wealth of information provided in the safety instructions on the side of the product. These will advise you how far up the product you can climb, the maximum weight limit etc. At TB Davies we advise our customers to assess at what height they want their feet to be at, and to add about 1.5m to give you your approximate working height needed to help you select the right sized product.
- Selecting the Right Ladder Manufacturing Standard
Nowadays, ladders and stepladders are generally manufactured to one of two major standards – EN131 Non Professional, and EN131 Professional. As you would expect for a safety-critical product, these are rigorous standards that ensure that all products meet a very high bar.
Within these standards, both have the same maximum weight limit of 150kg. However, the EN131 Non-Professional (as the name suggests) are only designed for the domestic environment. Whilst it has the same weight limit as the Professional version, Non Professional products are designed for lighter, less frequent work, and so do not have the same durability as their commercial counterparts.
As they are designed for the commercial working environment, products manufactured to the EN131 Professional standard have additional requirements for durability, and are therefore better suited to the rigours of daily work at height, in the more demanding conditions that working environments will often dictate.
With regards to the 150kg weight limit for both categories of the EN131 standard, this would include the weight of the user (150kg is 23.6 stone), including workwear, PPE, tools, materials and potentially the amount of force they are pushing for example on a drill into the ceiling.
In summary, these are some of the key factors to consider when assessing ladders and stepladders, so keep yourselves, your colleagues and employees, and your family safe when working at height!
If you require further information, please fill out the form below:
Alternatively, view our range of training courses, and get yourself or your team trained today: