How to choose the right ladder for your job and use it safely

two men standing on 2 different types of ladders

Whether you are looking for a ladder to use for your trade or for some home DIY, with so many options on the market it can be difficult to find the right one to suit you. It may not even seem like it’s that important and any old ladder will do but this is not the case. Ensuring you have the right ladder for your job is the safest way to complete any task and reduce the risk of an accident or injury. There are a few things you can take into consideration when looking at what ladder is best for you.


1) Choosing the style of ladder you want

This is the first step in finding your ideal ladder for you, there are many different styles available. Each style is built with a purpose in mind and to keep you safe when climbing or standing. If you don’t know the limitations of the ladder you’re using or using the wrong type all together could result in a serious injury.


2) Selecting the right height

When considering the height of your ladder there are certain guidelines you should adhere to. One of the most important things to bear in mind is that the highest permitted standing level on a step ladder is two steps down from the top. Also, the user should only reach a maximum of 4’ higher than the top of the ladder. This is to ensure you can maintain your balance fully with no wobbling to one side or risking a fall. Different ladder types will have their own guidelines on height, another example is extension ladders where the highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.


3) Be aware of how much weight a ladder can hold

All ladders are designed to hold up to a maximum amount of weight. This figure refers to the combined weight of the user fully clothed with any tools or materials that may be carried on and held additionally. For a tradesperson, the maximum weight of the ladder could be an important factor if they need to hold a range of tools to complete their work, if they work on a construction site for example. Whereas a DIY user may not need a ladder that carries so much weight if they are only carrying out smaller jobs around the house or in the garden. Both of these factors should be taken into consideration when making the decision on the right ladder for you.


4) Choosing the right material

The different materials from which ladders are designed and made are not for aesthetic purposes even though it may seem like it sometimes. Each material has different environments and uses in mind, for example one of the most well used materials for making ladders is aluminium. This is because it is lightweight so easy to use but also immensely strong and durable to keep the user as secure as possible while climbing and standing. As well as this aluminium won’t rust or corrode in the rain so it is a good choice for outdoor work like gardening or window cleaning where it could be in contact with wet weather.

Another example is fibreglass which is used in ladders that are needed for electrical work as unlike other materials they don’t conduct electricity so an electrician would need a fibreglass ladder rather than a metal one. That is why it is so important to think about what uses you will have for the ladder because you don’t want to end up buying one made from the wrong material and increase your risk of having an accident.


As a ladder owner, what should you check before use?

Before starting a task, it is important to carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects and to make sure the ladder is safe to use. These checks particularly apply to anyone in trade who uses ladders on a regular basis for their work. A pre-use check should be done:

  • By the user
  • At the beginning of the working day (or at the start of a DIY task if at home)
  • After there has been a chance, for example the ladder has been dropped or moved from a dirty area to a clean area (be sure to check the condition or state of the feet).


The list of checks to be completed include:

  • Checking the stiles – making sure they are not bent or damaged as the ladder could collapse or buckle under any weight.
  • Examine the feet- if they are missing, damaged or worn the ladder could slip with insufficient grip on the ground. Also, it is important to check ladder feet when moving from soft/dirty ground (such as dug soil, loose sand/stone, or a dirty workshop) to a solid, smooth surface (e.g., paving slabs) to make sure the actual foot material and not the dirt (like soil, embedded stones, or chippings) is making contact with the ground.
  • Look at the rungs- if they are bent, worn, loose or missing the ladder could fail and cause an injury to the user.
  • Check any locking mechanisms- if they are bent or the fixings are worn or damaged the ladder could collapse. Also, ensure the locking bars are fully engaged to keep the ladder erect in the right position.
  • Inspect the stepladder platform – if it is buckled or split the ladder could become unstable and collapse.
  • Check the steps or treads on stepladders – if they have been contaminated, they could be slippery and if the fixings are loose on steps they could collapse.

If you spot any of the issues above, do not use the ladder and if you’re at work you should notify your employer immediately.


What about where you are using the ladder?

As a guide you should only use a ladder:

  • On firm ground
  • On level ground- you can refer to the manufacturer’s pictures on the side of the ladder to help you.
  • On clean, solid surfaces (floors, paving slabs etc), it’s important that these are fully clean (no moss, oil or leaf litter) and clear of any loose materials like sand or packing materials to ensure the feet can grip the surface properly. Keep in mind that shiny floor surfaces can be slippery even without contamination.
  • Where they won’t be at risk of being hit by vehicles, you can protect the area using suitable barriers or cones.
  • Where they won’t be pushed over by other hazards such as doors or windows, i.e., if working close to doors or windows make sure they are secure.
  • Where the general public are prevented from using it, walking underneath it or being at risk because they are too close. To avoid this, you can use barriers or cones or as a last resort have someone standing guard at the base.
  • Where it has been secured.

If you are looking for a new ladder and need some guidance don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team here at BPS, we’re happy to help. You can also explore our website to see the wide range of high-quality ladders that are suitable for both workers in industry and DIY enthusiasts who are looking for the best ladder. No matter what your needs are we have ladders that are ideal for you.

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