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Ladder Safety Guidelines

There is nothing quite like the inexperience and enthusiasm of youth. I was contacted by an old college buddy named Phil. Phil and I along with my friend John used to paint houses in the summer months as we worked our way through college. My friend Phil mentioned in an email message to me about the day we placed a 40 foot fully extended ladder on top of a 2x10 board that spanned from the ridge of a roof to some concrete block on the sloped part of the roof. I was the only one in the group that was foolish enough to climb to the very top of the ladder - and I mean the top rung. That was insanity. If the ladder company owners, or my Mom, would have seen us, they would have gone crazy!

Dangerous Devices

Ladders are probably in the top three list of most dangerous tools. I would place them right up there with circular saws and razor knives. I imagine that thousands of people each day across the world get injured on a ladder. The number could be higher.

It is my guess that most of the injuries are avoidable. People often are not trained in ladder safety and use. If you are a professional or volunteer fireman, you know what I mean. You can spend hours and hours on training to properly set, climb and descend ladders!

Ladder Abuse

These simple tools - ladders - are often abused. People will leave them out in the weather, drop them, use them as beams, ramps, or scaffold planks. All of these can be detrimental to the ladder's health and that of any person who subsequently uses the ladder.

Another form of abuse is overloading. Even I have been guilty of this. I don't recall ladders being marked for weight capacity when I first got into the construction business. Now many ladders are color coded to help you identify the weight class or "duty" rating of the ladder. Commonly step and extension ladders are divided into four classes: Household, Commercial, Industrial, and Professional.

One manufacturer, Werner Ladder Company, clearly colors their fiberglass ladders for each of these classes. Their Household ladders are an orange-red color. These ladders are constructed to accept loads of no more than 200 lbs. Mind you that includes you, your clothes and the thing(s) you are carrying up the ladder! I can tell you right now that I can't safely get on that ladder in my birthday suit!

The Commercial ladders are a bright yellow. They are rated to carry 225 lbs. The Industrial ladders are a Caribbean Sea blue color. These ladders have evidently been tested for loads up to 250 lbs. The Professional series is black in color and will support 300 lbs. The duty ratings are clearly marked on all ladders no matter if they are constructed of wood, aluminum or fiberglass. Pay attention to this important number, especially if you intend to use an extension ladder in its most extended fashion. When fully extended, an extension ladder is stretched to the limit with regards to strength.

Related Articles: Extension Ladder Sizing, Ladder Safety Tips, Ladder Manufacturers

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One Response to Ladder Safety Guidelines

  1. Thank you for this article. Very well written and the exact information I was looking for. I had stumbled across a black fiberglass, 24 ft, 300 lb rated extension ladder on sale at a lumber store. The price was a close out price. I almost past it up because I'd never seen a black color coded ladder and was really unfamiliar with the code designations. I purchased this ladder for home use and since I'm a little heavier then the lightweight models would safely handle im really pleased with the purchase. It was on clearance for $126.00. Again, thank you for your clarification of ladder class and color code designations.

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