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Ladders: Safety, Use and Accessories

Ladders come in different types, with varying capacities. Here are the basics on ladder safety and use.

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Wooden ladders are used for electrical and light-duty work, such as painting a wall.

Ladders made of fiberglass are strong and long-lasting, used for electrical and heavy-duty projects. You can climb as high as 21' on a fiberglass ladder.

Aluminum ladders are sturdy and suitable for heavy-duty projects, but because they can conduct electricity, they should never be used for electrical work.

Trestle ladders are used for larger projects that call for scaffolding. Two people can use a trestle ladder at the same time, climbing on opposite legs. Trestle ladders can conduct electricity so they must not be used for electrical work or any work near electrical wires.

Using Ladders Safely

Here are few simple rules for safe use of ladders:

1. Wear shoes with non-skid soles.
2. Clean oil or other debris from the ladder before use.
3. Make certain all rungs and steps are intact.
4. Make sure the ladder's feet are on firm, level ground.
5. When using a stepladder, make sure the spreaders are fully engaged and locked. Position the ladder so that you're facing your work.
6. When using a regular ladder, keep your belt buckle between the rails.
7. Never stand above the second step from the top of the ladder.
8. Prop ladders at a 75-degree angle against a surface.

Duty Rating

Check the duty rating sticker on a ladder before you buy. The sticker will tell you how much weight the ladder can hold.

Type IA: These extra-heavy-duty ladders can hold as much as 300 pounds. Type IA ladders are for advanced users only.

Type I: These are heavy-duty ladders used for industrial projects. They can hold as much as 250 pounds.

Type II: These medium-duty ladders are intended for commercial use. They can hold up to 225 pounds.

Type III: These are light-duty ladders for household use. They can hold 200 pounds or less.

Ladder Accessories

There are a multitude of accessories that can make your ladder more useful.

  • Ladder jacks are platforms made of metal or wood and brackets that attach to ladder rungs to create a scaffold from two ladders. The jacks can adjust to create the angle needed for scaffolding.

  • Stabilizers minimize the chance of slipping and allow you to work on areas directly in front of a ladder, such as windows.

  • Foam blocks may be attached to the top of the ladder to protect dry wall when you're propping a ladder against it.

  • Corner braces are secured to the top of a ladder to hold it up against a corner. The braces help keep the ladder from wobbling.