Ladders: They’ve got history!

ladders Ladders are commonplace items that most of us take for granted. Did you know, though, that the ladder has a place in human history that dates back to the Mesolithic period, about 10,000 years ago? Cave paintings found in Valencia, Spain depict two people carrying baskets or bags. They’re using a long ladder to access a wild honeybee nest and raid it for its precious content of honey. The ladder as we know it in modern times was developed by the ancient Egyptians and ancient Hebrews.

Ladders: Forms and Types

The rigid ladder is the most common type. It was originally made from timber and in ancient times from plaited grass. A modern ladder can be crafted from timber, aluminium or glass fibre. Aluminium is a popular material for ladders because of its strength, durability and light weight. It’s not advisable to use an aluminium ladder when working around electrical sources, because aluminium will conduct an electric current. In this case, a glass fibre is the preferred choice, because it’s an electrical insulator. The rigid ladder comes in a variety of styles and sizes. A step ladder or platform step ladder is a popular choice, with the extension ladder running a close second. One remarkable type of ladder is the Multi Purpose model. This can be used as a workbench, free-standing ladder, stair ladder, stair platform ladder, stand-off ladder, gardening or painting platform, and double-sided step ladder.

Ladders: About the Step Type

The step ladder is perhaps the most popular model. In an important development, in January 1862, an American named John H. Balsley received the first patent in the US for this type of ladder. The step ladder is so named because the rungs are set in a stepped rather than a runged configuration. Before the patent, the step ladder was not foldable, but Balsey’s model was designed with hinges at the top that allowed users to fold the ladder for easy storage. Also called an A-frame, the step ladder is now used all over the world.

Ladders: A Few Comments on Safe Use

Before using a ladder, evaluate the surroundings in which you’ll be using it. Consider, as well, the area in which you plan to deploy the ladder and whether you’ve chosen the correct ladder for the task. Whether indoors or outdoors, a ladder always should be set up on a dry and level surface that’s firm and will not shift. Never deploy a ladder on top of another surface, such as a table, to gain additional height. If you’re setting up a ladder near a door, put a sign on the other side of the door warning that a ladder is in use. Outdoors, never use a ladder in high winds, rain, or if the ground appears slippery. Take stock of yourself before using a ladder. If, for example, you’re suffering from an ankle or foot injury, it’s wise to postpone projects that require climbing a ladder. If you’re suffering from an illness, such as a cold, that might affect your ability to climb and balance, don’t use a ladder until you’re feeling better. To use a step ladder properly, open it until it’s fully extended. Then use the locking mechanism to keep it correctly and safely deployed. Before you buy a ladder, take some time to determine what type is right for you. For most indoor home and DIY tasks, a step ladder is the best choice. If you need to reach the second storey of your home for painting or window washing, select an extension ladder of the correct height.

Ladders: Safety Considerations and Popular Models

Perhaps the most important safety issue to consider is the height you’ll need to reach when using a ladder. It’s important never to overreach by leaning sideways on a ladder – it’s essential to dismount and reposition the ladder so you can reach safely. Pay attention to a ladder’s maximum load rating, which is the combined weight of the user and any tools or materials being used or transported on the ladder. Due to the extensive range of ladder types available today, you should be able to find a safe, well-built ladder regardless of your budget. As mentioned earlier, the step ladder is the most popular type because it’s self-supporting. Straight and extension types are not self-supporting, which means they must be leaned against a stable vertical support surface, such as a wall. Extension models have a unique design in which two or three sections nest together. The second section (and if your ladder has a third section) can be raised and locked into place, which increases the ladder’s height significantly. The step ladder comes in a variety of models, including light-duty types for everyday tasks, medium-duty models for more complex projects and trade or industrial models. A step ladder with a height of about six feet is a good choice. For lighter, lower indoor tasks at home or in the office, a step stool is adequate. You also should consider storing a fire or rescue / escape ladder in strategic places around the home, such as in each bedroom.

Ladders: Selecting the Right One

It can be difficult to determine the correct height for a ladder because the entire length of a ladder cannot be used safely. So, you need to consider what’s called the usable height of the ladder. When using a straight or extension ladder, avoid standing on any of the top three rungs. This rule effectively eliminates two to three feet of height, so buy accordingly. An extension ladder needs three to five feet of overlap between the sections to ensure safe use. When using an extension ladder to reach a roof, it’s important that it extends three feet above the surface. In addition, remember that a straight or extension ladder must be leaned, and this reduces the ladder’s usable height.

Judiciously chosen ladders will serve homeowners, businesses and tradesmen safely and well.

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