Factors to consider before buying a platform ladder for work
Consider just how many different ladder types there are: stepstools, stepladders, extension ladders, telescopic ladders, convertible multi-function ladders….you get the point. Safe ladder usage depends largely on using the right type of ladder for the job.
Today’s ladders are available in lightweight and strong materials, not like the wood ladders of yesterday. Modern ladders typically come in aluminum and fiberglass and usually have rungs that are serrated for slip resistance. In addition to the advantage of being light, fiberglass ladders have non-conductive side rails for added safety when working around electricity.
Given the frequent need for this tool, it is worth taking a little time to review how to safely choose the right ladder for the job at hand. Today, we will cover the factors to think about before choosing a ladder for work.
(1) Ladder Type
Ladders come in five main types although there are some variations within these styles. These five types include:
- Single-section ladder
- Extension ladder
- Telescopic ladder
- Multi-function ladder
Single Section Ladder
Yes, this is your grandfather’s ladder. Used for thousands of years, the single-section ladder is useful for simple, level-ground applications where the top of the ladder is leaned directly against an object. The advantage of this ladder is that it is the lightest ladder available for a given length. The disadvantage is that because it is a single section, it is also the longest ladder for that length.
The stepladder is a single-section, fixed-length ladder with built-in stabilizing legs allowing applications for freestanding use. The legs fold compactly for storage. Stepladders are available in aluminum, fiberglass, and wood.
An extension ladder is a design that allows a series of single-section ladders to be deployed in a cascading manner, allowing higher ladder reach in a ladder that requires less storage space. Typically, an extension ladder has two single sections, but the compact extension ladder, such as that made by Werner, Co. comes with a three-section design providing easier storage and requiring less storage length. Standard extension ladders are available in aluminum, fiberglass, and wood. Compact extension ladders are available in fiberglass and aluminum.
The telescopic ladder is the newest innovation in ladders and is similar to an extension ladder, except that the rungs collapse for an even smaller storage footprint. Telescopic ladders are available in aluminum.
The multi-function ladder uses lockable hinge joints and extension ladder design to function in a number of ways, including a step ladder with even or uneven side lengths, a single- section ladder, or as a support for scaffolding functioning like a sawhorse
(2) Ladder Height and Reach
Selecting the right length ladder is not as simple as determining the required vertical height. The ladder length must include several factors including:
- The highest standing point on the ladder (which is four rungs down from the top)
- Required overlap of ladder sections
- Height, when it is fully extended
Step ladders would include the length of the ladder when open as well as a maximum height you want to reach, calculated for an average person’s height of 5’9” with a vertical reach of 12”.
So if you know how high you want to reach, let’s say 10’, you would likely purchase a 6’ step ladder allowing you to safely stand almost 4’ above the ground.
(3) Ladder Weight Capacity
Duty rating is a category assigned to a ladder. It is a way to easily tell how much total weight a ladder can support in each of its steps without any risks for the user. It is written in Roman Numerals going from lighter loads to heavier ones. They start at III and go to I, then adding IA and IAA for even heavier loads.
- Type IA (300 lbs. load limit)
- Type III (200 lbs. load limit)
- Type II (225 lbs. load limit)
- Type I (250 lbs. load limit)
Remember that these ratings include all of the weight the ladder can support. Some people make the mistake of going up a ladder because they’re under the allotted weight limit, not thinking about the heavy tools they’re carrying.
(4) Ladder Size
The larger the ladder, the bigger, bulkier and heavier they usually become. When selecting your ladder, consider how easy it will be to store or transport. The compact extension ladder goes a long way to improving maneuverability and ease of storage. Instead of two overlapping sections making up a standard 16-foot extension ladder, a compact extension ladder uses three shorter overlapping sections, making it easier to store and transport.
At the end of the day, choosing the right ladder starts with thinking what kind of job you’re going to be using it for. Then make sure you’ve taken all of the previous steps to ensure your product will not underperform, or, on the other hand, you would buy a ladder with features that you won’t ever be using or plain old overspending because of a lack of information.