Because more than 165,000 ladder-related injuries occur every year, it’s well worth taking a few minutes to refresh your memory on important ladder safety tips. Using the right ladder for the job, using the ladder correctly, and inspecting and maintaining your ladders can help protect you and your painting crew.
There are hundreds of unique ladder combinations to choose from, including stepladders, extension ladders and multi-purpose ladders that come in a variety of sizes and materials based on your needs. The ladders below are categorized based on small to large-scale projects and the specific application need. Keep in mind that there are innovative accessories now available, such as paint cup holders and paint cup liners, to increase productivity and eliminate the need to go up and down a ladder any more than necessary.
Step Stools and Work Stands: Twin step stools are ideal for one- or two-person jobs and great for using with planks to get that extra reach. Consider a ladder with slip-resistant traction on the steps. Ideal applications include trim work and pattern blocking for painting walls.
Stepladder: This is the most popular ladder style used for low and medium-height access; there are a variety of styles to choose from. Many painters prefer the lighter weight of aluminum stepladders for easier maneuverability, but fiberglass stepladders are also available. Here are some of the stepladders available.
Single-Sided: The most popular ladder style used. Available in both fiberglass and aluminum, it is valuable for any application that requires a self-supported ladder.
Platform: The platform stepladder provides a more comfortable standing area when working at a fixed height. The platform allows more room for your feet when you are standing on the ladder for lengthy periods of time.
Twin Stepladders: You can double your productivity by using a twin stepladder! When the job requires two people, a twin stepladder is the right choice. Each side can hold the specified load capacity of the ladder.
Tripods: The unique three-legged design is ideal for working in tight spaces or on uneven ground. The ladder fits into confined work areas, allowing you to get close to the job at hand.
Extension Ladder: One of the most universal ladders for a painter is an extension ladder. From painting interior walls and trim to the exterior of two-story buildings, extension ladders are essential for commercial and residential projects. When extended reach is needed – for rooftops or even higher elevations – the extension ladder handles a wide range of tasks and is available in a variety of heights and materials. Two very important things to consider when looking for an extension ladder are height and weight.
Height – To ensure that you choose the ladder best suited to your needs, look at the height reference chart below and consider how the ladder is to be used. If you intend to use the ladder to get onto a roof, the ladder must be able to extend three feet beyond the roofline. If the ladder will be leaned against a gutter or roofline but you will be working on the ladder, it must be able to extend only one foot above the roofline. The ladder can also be leaned against a wall or other surface. The “Maximum Reach” and “Height to Gutter or Top Support Point” figures in the chart below take into account the length for proper setup, overlap of ladder sections, height restrictions of the highest standing level and, where appropriate, the extension of the ladder above the roof-line. Remember, the highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.
Weight – Ladders are designed and constructed to safely hold a specific amount of weight. Ladders come in different duty ratings identified by their grade and type. The duty rating is defined as the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. A person’s fully clothed weight plus the weight of any tools and materials that are carried onto the ladder must be less than the duty rating. Approximate weights based on ladder application use are included below for reference.
Multipurpose Ladders: A multipurpose ladder is the most versatile ladder you can own. The telescoping design can be used in four different ways – twin stepladder, stairway stepladder, extension ladder and as two scaffold bases. The feet of the ladder are slip-resistant and the ends are flared for firm support. The telescoping design provides maximum versatility. For jobs from extra tall staircases to grand foyers, a multi-purpose ladder is essential as a go-to utility product.
Climbing Equipment Systems: Contractors can create productive climbing equipment systems with extension ladders, ladder jacks and aluminum stages or extendable planks. Typical applications may include window and siding work. Werner Co. recommends that users follow the instructions included on the safety labels for each product that is in use (e.g., ladders, planks, pump jacks, etc.). Additional safety instructions can be found in the manuals, depending on the product.
Finally, one of the most important factors to remember when selecting a ladder is to ensure that it meets OSHA and ANSI requirements. Ladders that meet these requirements will have a notation. The OSHA/ANSI indication will be on the ladder’s ID label.
While there are a variety of styles, materials and performance ratings to choose from, it’s also important to inspect and maintain your ladder on a regular basis to preserve your investment. Examine the ladder for missing, damaged or loose components, and make sure all moving parts are secure and work properly. The ladder rungs, rails, hardware and bracing rivets should be in good working order. Never use a damaged ladder, and tag those that are damaged for repair or disposal.
To care and maintain your ladder, keep it clean by removing spills, drips, paint and other slippery materials. Store ladders with firm support, and protect them from the heat, weather and corrosive materials.
Finally, here are a few things that you should NOT do when setting up or climbing on a ladder.
Mark Marini is the director of product management for Werner Co.