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Ladder Selection 101: The Pros and Cons of Different Ladder Materials

If you operate in the manufacturing industry or have workers who regularly access high areas, you’ll need to make employee safety one of your top priorities. According to the American Ladder Institute (ALI), it’s estimated that over 300 people pass away from ladder-related accidents every year.

To prevent any untoward incidents at work, it will be in your company’s best interest to purchase the top fixed ladders in the market.

Fortunately, there are several options when it comes to fixed ladders. Besides the differences in a ladder’s design, manufacturers offer pieces in different materials. Since each ladder material has its fair share of advantages and drawbacks, taking note of every type’s performance and purpose will enable you to find the best investment possible.

To help you narrow your choices down, we’ve listed the unique features of aluminum, steel, wood, and fiberglass ladders.

The Pros and Cons of Different Ladder Materials

Wood

For small business owners, wood is a popular choice since it’s affordable and readily available. Sometimes called timber ladders, wood ladders can be a bit heavier than other ladder materials. Be that as it may, this aspect makes the ladder sturdier and safer. As long as you take proper care of them, wood ladders can last a long time.

When dry, wood ladders are also a non-conductor of electricity. This feature makes them the top choice, together with fiberglass, for work that has electrical hazards. Despite this, wood ladders are not appropriate for all industrial or commercial environments as they are prone to rot, fungi, mold, and pests.

Pros:

●  Feels solid and sturdy

●  Inexpensive

●  Non-conductive of electricity

Cons:

●  Needs daily maintenance to avoid detoriration

●  Not ideal for commercial or industrial applications

Steel

Steel is good to use in rough environments such as warehouses and industrial facilities. However, it’s important to note that steel ladders are not corrosion-resistant. If you plan to install it outdoors, you will need to have it galvanized, painted, or made with stainless steel to meet ladder regulations.  

Pros:

●  Suitable for heavy-duty work

●  More affordable than fiberglass and aluminum ladders

●  Rot-resistant

Cons:

●  Heat and electricity conductors

●  Vulnerable to moisture, corrosion, and rusting

●  Requires regular maintenance

●  Heavier than fiberglass and aluminum ladders

Fiberglass

Fiberglass ladders are the newest innovation of the ladder manufacturing industry. They don’t bend or weaken in hot temperatures. Additionally, they are lighter than wood ladders but are heavier and denser than aluminum ladders.

In comparison to aluminum ladders, fiberglass ladders are more difficult to work with because of their weight. Setting installation difficulties aside, the high cost of fiberglass also serves as one of its major disadvantages. However, if you need a non-conductive ladder, fiberglass can be your best option.

Pros:

●  Non-conductors of electricity and heat

●  Durable, doesn’t crack or splinter, built to last a long time

●  Rot-resistant

●  Has several color options

 Cons:

●  Not ideal for heavy-duty work

●  More expensive

●  Heavier than aluminum ladders

 Aluminum

Aluminum ladders are very popular among industrial companies as they are durable, lightweight, and affordable. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about maintaining aluminum ladders because they are corrosion-resistant.

 Pros:

●  Affordable

●  Corrosion-resistant

●  Durable, won’t deteriorate in harsh weather

●  Lightweight can be installed quicker

●  Non-spark and non-magnetic

●  High strength material suitable for heavy-duty work

Our Verdict

From the list above, it’s evident that the top choice is aluminum ladders. The advantages of aluminum ladders are tried and tested for generations. Since they are affordable and virtually maintenance-free, it’s no surprise that they’re the most popular type.

But before you start collecting options, you should take some time to evaluate your situation. Along with your local ladder regulations, you should consider factors such as its angle placement and purpose. Once you’ve addressed these concerns, you can start assessing which ladder material will work best for you.

Suppose your company requires heavy-duty work with ladders. In that case, you should opt for aluminum as it has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio compared to other ladder types with a high tendency to snap under excess pressure.

Select the Best Industrial Ladder

Choosing the right ladder material is essential to everyone’s safety. Depending on your purpose, some ladders are more or less fit for the job. As you do your research, see that the type of ladder you choose is durable, budget-friendly, and practical for your situation. Check out O’Keeffe’s lightweight, high strength, corrosion-resistant, OSHA and ANSI compliant industrial ladders for safe and high-quality aluminum ladders.

How to Properly Inspect Your Industrial Ladders

Workplace safety is vital in any business, as it allows everyday operations to flow without hiccups. Depending on your industry, workplace safety can cover everything from sufficient lighting and adequate ventilation to proper traffic movement and well-maintained equipment or machinery.

Implementing workplace safety is particularly crucial in hazardous environments. Since some jobs are more dangerous than others, employees working in accident-prone areas must take extra precautions.

Whether you employ staff for telecommunications, maintenance, or repair services, the use of fixed ladders to ascend high areas or climb down manholes entails safety practices. The goal is to proactively control and eliminate active threats to get your workers and other people out of harm’s way.

To ensure that accidents are prevented, this guide will teach you how to inspect your industrial ladders properly.

Best Practices for Ladder Safety

If you operate in a high-risk industry, conducting safety inspections of equipment, such as roof access ladders, must be a standard operating procedure. It’s essential to have all bases covered, so we’re making things easier for you with this ladder inspection checklist.

1. Review OSHA regulations and standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) enforces rules and regulations on workplace safety to help employers design work environments that can prevent illnesses, injuries, accidents, or deaths among employees while on the job.

Before you can conduct a ladder safety inspection, you must be aware of OSHA standards regarding fall prevention to help you to identify focus areas.

A quick check on the OSHA website and resources can go a long way. Not only will you be certain that you’re on the right track regarding compliance, but you’ll also be aware of industry trends, updates, and best practices that you can implement in your organization.

It won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the quality standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regarding business processes and systems, either.

2. Create a fixed schedule to conduct periodical checks

Routine checks on ladders are necessary to ensure they’re in excellent form and suitable for your organizational usage requirements. The type of ladder is only one way to determine how often it should be inspected.

So, even if you know that fixed access ladders should be inspected at least once a year, you may want to consider other factors. This includes how often they’re being used, exposure to unwanted environmental elements like salt air, relevant mechanisms installed on your ladders, and others.

From there, you can decide on the ideal frequency of testing your ladder systems. This schedule must be followed so you can catch any safety issues before it’s too late.

3. Look for cracks, loose bolts, and other noticeable defects

Ladders in good condition aren’t supposed to show any sign of damage. As you inspect them visually, watch out for any of the following safety hazards:

  •  Loose or missing nails, screws, or bolts and nuts
  •  Brackets that might not be secure enough to attach the ladder to a building, equipment, or structure, such as a roof
  • Rough edges, splinters, or protrusions that can cut through the skin or clothing

Here, the main thing to remember is not to apply a temporary fix if you see something is off, such as using duct tape to tie up loose parts. What you should do is tag the ladder as out of service so others would know that they should not use it until repairs are made

4. Search for signs of corrosion

Ladder inspections must include checking the entire structure or system for rust, which indicates that the ladder is deteriorating and may not be structurally sound. These components require a close look as they are prone to corrosion: rungs, rails, fasteners, anchors and extension anchors, hatches, and grab bars, among others.

Should you find corroded components, do not take chances and put up a warning sign right away that the ladder is not safe for use. The last thing you want is for an unaware employee to climb a ladder that can easily break because its integrity is already compromised.

This is where having an aluminum fixed access ladder is most helpful. Aluminum is naturally corrosion-resistant, which means fewer maintenance fees and lower lifetime costs. Learn more about the many benefits of choosing aluminum ladders here.

5. Check on the rungs, side rails, and cages

Fixed ladders have two main parts—the rungs (the horizontal bars for stepping) and side rails (the vertical bars for holding). Cages should also be installed on fixed ladders with a height of more than 20 feet (6.1 meters) as barriers or enclosures to prevent falling accidents. Each of these parts must work properly based on their intended use or purpose.

As such, the rungs should have no missing steps and be clear of greasy or slippery substances that could result in someone slipping. The rails should be steady without any sign of distortion, or else holding on to it might be a problem. Inside the cage, there must be no obstruction that can make the personal fall arrest system unusable or ineffective.

6. Specify repair requirements for damaged ladders

At this point, you need to report any defect or damage you’ve discovered during the inspection to facilitate the repair or replacement of faulty components. Details like where the flaws were noted, the extent of the problem, and the recommended solutions must be reported.

7. Develop a data inspection sheet

The last step entails creating a data inspection sheet that summarizes the results of your inspection. Your ladder data inspection sheet must contain OSHA safety benchmarks alongside your observed ratings for each component of your fixed ladder installations.

This practice helps you see how well you’re complying with general and specific regulations on workplace safety and ladder safety and the improvements you have to make moving forward. The datasheet also serves as a reference for future inspections you’ll be carrying out.

Any pattern of recurring problems will be easier to spot and, from there, you should be able to look for a better way of doing things.

All The Way To The Top

Preventing workplace accidents is a responsibility that you must take seriously. In the industrial sector, workplace safety goes beyond restricting high-risk areas only to authorized and trained personnel. Regular inspections of those areas and the relevant equipment are necessary, too.

O’Keeffe’s is proud to carry a wide range of fixed ladder systems that are guaranteed safe, reliable, and in line with OSHA and ANSI standards to propel your business to success. Check out our offerings of quality commercial ladders.