By Teddy Durgin
National Ladder Safety Month is all about educating the public on the steps one must take when climbing a ladder, whether at home or at work. But any industry professional worth his or her salt will tell you – safety begins even before that. It begins with picking the right ladder. And when choosing the right ladder, there are several things that must be taken into account.
Just ask Michael Van Bree, Director of Product Safety and Engineering at Louisville Ladder. For years, his role has been to cover the safety and engineering concerns of his company as it relates to its products.
He remarked, “The key considerations when choosing your ladder are to select a ladder of the proper material. If you are in a conductive environment, for example, you would want to choose a non-conductive material like fiberglass. If lightest weight is most important, then aluminum might give you a little bit lighter weight. Of course, you have to be able to safely reach the work. So, there is size to consider. And then you’ve got the duty rating that is an important factor. In other words, you don’t want to select a ladder that isn’t suitable for your girth and weight. Finally, there is the style of the ladder. You have to know whether or not these are tasks that can be accessed with a self-supporting step ladder, for example, or a leanable, non-self-supporting, single or extension ladder. They are sometimes called ‘multi-purpose ladders’ that can be used as a stepladder or leanable ladder.”
Chad Lingerfelt, National Safety Training Manager for Illinois-based WernerCo, picked up on several of Van Bree’s points. He also offered a few tips of his own. “Number one is indeed choosing the right ladder for the right job,” he said. To that end, he noted, there are several key factors to take into account. Among them is the type of ladder, what kind of job(s) it will be used for, and making sure the ladder can reach high enough for the job(s) you will be trying to do. “Plus,” he added, “make sure you have level ground or that you have the appropriate ladder that you can adjust to the surface you’re on.”
His colleague, Stacy Gardella, also chimed in. WernerCo’s Vice President of Brand Marketing said, “People forget about load capacity. It’s not just the individuals, but the individuals and the equipment they’ll be using. So, when choosing a ladder, take that factor into consideration.”
Dave Francis, National Safety Director for Little Giant Ladder Systems, LLC in Utah, said there is no getting around the reality that much of the public thinks of ladders as being somewhat dangerous. “Statistically, we know that ladders are involved in accidents resulting in disabilities and even fatalities,” he concluded. “But ladders themselves are overbuilt for what they do. They are just misused. People, when trying to get the job done, cut corners and take risks that they shouldn’t. . . . A ladder used properly and in good condition will never be the cause of an accident. On some level, the responsibility is on you, the user, to take what we make as an overbuilt product, follow the basic rules, and you’ll be safe.”