Step It Step Ladder
Frequently Asked Questions! (FAQ)
Ladders come in many types and choosing something to suit the job in hand is not always obvious. We have summarised the most common types of ladders and the advantages as well as some common uses.
Extension ladders can reach to heights of up to 12m so are perfect for clearing gutters, decorating walls of a house. These are available in 2 or 3 sections, with 3 section ladders occupying less storage space to achieve the same working height.
Step ladders are free standing, a are available with or without a platform at the top, known as swingback steps or builders steps (without platform). Designed for working for longer periods at height.
Combination ladders can be used as an extension ladder or steps. These are free-standing so you can work doing jobs such as hedge cutting or tree pruning without requiring a wall to lean against
Telescopic ladders are available in various sizes up to 3.8m and can be extended rung-by-rung. They will fit into the boot or a car, so you effectively have an extension ladder that can be stored in the fraction of the space
Multi-Purpose ladders can be configured into a range of positions. So can be used as an extension, platform or step ladder, the often will feature an additional platform, these are really versatile and are an excellent choice if you only have space for one ladder, but need to carry out a wide selection of jobs.
Roof ladders feature a hook to allow the ladder to sit on the roof and are a much better safer option than simply working on the roof. It is fitted with bearer bars to spread the weight when you are on the roof to protect tiles and most importantly to give you something safe to work on.
Hop ups or work platforms as they are often known are designed for use for long periods when you need to work just a little higher than you can comfortably reach. Typically the height will be 50 - 60cm, ideal if you are painting or decorating. These are also available in fibreglass making them suitable for use by electricians or anyone who needs to ensure electrical insulation.
Warehouse steps are designed for use in warehouses; they are larger and more permanent step ladders, typically fitted with wheels to allow you to move them into place. They are available in a large range of sizes, from 2 tread up to 15 tread, making them perfect for stock picking. Typically the platform is also very large and surrounded by a guardrail for safety
Step ladders are well suited to the retail industry, especially in shops where there is a frequent need to reach high shelves. However, one of the problems people tend to face when looking to buy a new stepladder is how to measure a ladder in the first place to suit their needs. The buyer also needs to take into account when measuring a step ladder, the required safety precautions as well as usable space therefore there are two different measurements you should take when measuring a step ladder, which are the open working height, which varies depending on the step type chosen and the closed height, which will affect your storage of the ladders.
Platform step ladders have the top tread as a platform that the user can stand on therefore when choosing platform steps the number of treads tells you how many treads the stepladder has including the platform.
The platform height is the height from the floor to the platform you can stand on. On platform steps it’s safe to work from the platform height.
The overall open height is the measurement from the floor to the top of the knee brace (the top plastic section). The closed height is the length of the step once it’s in its folded position.
The reach height, or working height is typically assumed to be 6ft above the platfom step though this is of course affected by your actual height.
The number of treads on a swingback step includes all treads including the top plastic section so a 6 tread step ladder has 5 treads plus the very top section. For safety reasons the HSE advises that users should not stand on the top 3 treads. However, according to the EN 131 standard you should not use the top two treads. Where a step ladder only has 3 treads the HSE recommendation is that you should use the bottom tread.
The open height is measured from the floor to the top plastic section when the steps are fully open. The closed height is measured the same but with the step ladders fully closed or in it's folded position.
The reach height, or working height is typically assumed to be 6ft above the recommended working step though this doesn't take into account your actual height.
Taking all these measurements into consideration should ensure you choose the right step ladder for the job, as well as helping to ensure your safety whilst working.
EN131 is a European Union Certification (Applicable to the UK) for portable steps and ladders, manufactured from metal and certain other materials such as GRP. Anyone purchasing a ladder that is to the EN131 standard can have peace of mind it's been manufactured and tested to ensure maximum safety. EN131 does not cover warehouse steps, loft ladders (EN14975) or step stools (EN14183) as they have their own classification.
In the past, there were three different classifications or portable ladders, or step and extension ladders to you and me. These were Class 1, EN131 and Domestic or class 3.
Class 1 was used for Industrial applications, often on construction sites, EN131 was used for trade and retail and Domestic for your everyday DIY tasks.
Testing is much more advanced and features such as stabiliser bars are required under this new standard once a ladder reaches a height of 3m.
The European Commission was dissatisfied with elements of the existing standard and has issued an EC Mandate for the standard to include additional requirements for stability, slip, durability and strength. With this mandate, all certified ladders in the UK have now changed.
So earlier we explained there were three classes. Class 1, EN131 and Domestic. To put it very simply Class 1 and EN131 have joined together and we now call this EN131 Professional, which is suitable for both trade and industrial purposes.
The domestic side of EN131 is not simply called EN131 Non-professional. It's really as easy as that. If you are buying for business purchase EN131 Professional and for Domestic and DIY EN131 Non-professional.
This classification should be used for both industrial and trade use.
The EN131 professional standards are replacing class 1 but only for portable ladders, class 1 will still cover trestles. The maximum capacity is 150kg which is the same as the non-professional classification, however, the professional standard ladders have been tested 5 times more than a non-professional ladder.
The EN131 non-professional standards will cover ladders for domestic use only. This classification is able to hold a 150kg load but the ladders within this classification are tested a little less vigorously.
Products will need to be independently tested and certified for compliance and labelled with the new EN131 Standard. If your product does not come with an EN131 label, it is highly likely not to be EN131.
There is no legal requirement to conform to standards in the UK but safety bodies such as Trading Standards and the HSE will expect manufacturers to comply. It is best practice to use new standard ladders, for the safety of yourself or your employees.
BUYING THE RIGHT LADDERSIt’s an old adage, but you really do get what you pay for. Anyone buying an uncertified and usually cheaper ladder will probably find it won't last the test of time if used regularly, and we've even heard of reports where uncertified ladders have collapsed under the user causing injury and in some cases death. That's why at Rackit Direct we do not stock any non-certified products, safety is always our top priority.
DURATION OF TASKDepending on how long the task in hand is going to take this can have a large influence on which ladder is the right choice. The HSE reccomends that any work at height that will take 30 minutes or less an portable ladder is a perfect solution. However, if working at height for a much longer period of time a fixed access solution or something with a larger standing platform and more protection should be used like a tower or podium step.
HEIGHTHeight is the next factor to take into account. Let's say you are looking to clear your gutters and need to reach a height of 5.7m, (the average height of a two storey house) a ladder with an extended height of around 8m would be perfect as you have to take into account the angle of the ladder when in use. Please bare in mind, the higher you are going more safety measures may have to be put into place, and other equipment like mobile towers should be considered.
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