By working around electricity as an electrician apprentice, I have obviously and extensively used ladders in all shapes and sizes. A ladder for electricians needs to be safe, applicable for heavy-duty work, and last, but most importantly; a ladder used for electrical work needs to be made of material, that is non-conductive to electricity. There are mainly two types of ladders, that fulfill these requirements, and can as such be recommended for electricians and non-professionals when doing electrical work.
The most commonly used ladder by electricians is made of fiberglass, as the material is relatively light and non-conductive to electricity. Electricians also have the option of using ladders made of wood, as it is also safe to use around electricity while being of a solid structure and relatively lightweight.
A ladder is just one of those things you, as an electrician, need to be comfortable with. We climb around these things all day, so it is important to choose the right one. This article will focus on, what type of ladders are most commonly used by electricians when installing electrical components at heights. Based on official guidelines, I will also share some insider tips on working safely and correctly on ladders.
What Type of Ladder Do Electricians Use?
The most important aspect of choosing a ladder to do electrical work is to choose a material that is non-conductive to electricity. Ladders come in a variety of different sizes, shapes, and materials. And electricians also have their own preferences for the type of ladder they individually like best.
The vast majority of electricians prefer fiberglass ladders to do electrical work and maintenance. Fiberglass ladders are made of a material that is non-conductive to electricity. These types of ladders also have the advantage of being both lightweight and durable for heavy-duty work.
Some electricians prefer ladders made of wood. However, that is not the opinion of most electricians. Far from it. By doing a survey with 382 electricians, mostly North American electricians, they, by far, prefer to use a ladder made out of fiberglass.
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This study shows that three out of four electricians use fiberglass ladders to do electrical work. The second most popular type of ladder among electricians is an aluminum ladder (17 percent), while wooden ladders are used by just 5 percent of the respondents. And only 1 percent are using ladders made of other materials than fiberglass, wood, or aluminum.
Non-conductive materials are types of materials that do not conduct electricity. This is important for safety reasons, as it prevents the risk of electric shock. Non-conductive materials are typically made from wood, glass, ceramic, fiberglass, plastics, rubber, and other non-metallic substances.
That’s also why you could be concerned as to the number of respondents, who are using an aluminum ladder. The safest choice is to use a ladder, that’s made out of either fiberglass or timber (wooden ladder), as they are both non-conducive to electricity. This survey goes to show, that every electrician has their own unique preferences. The place you work will also determine what type of ladder, is available for the workers. The price difference in different ladders, will most certainly also reflect on, which type of ladder, the employer offers.
In this next section, you will be introduced to the two types of ladders, recommended for use around electricity for electricians and non-professionals.
Fiberglass Ladder (Recommended)
A fiberglass ladder is the type of ladder, that is most commonly used by electricians. Fiberglass ladders are known for being applicable for heavy-duty work in different weather conditions. A fiberglass ladder is made of material that does not have the properties for providing an electrical current. This type of ladder is, therefore, a great choice for doing work around electricity.
Fiberglass is also a broad term for glass-reinforced plastic. The most common type of fiberglass in this sense would be polyester. Fiberglass is a strong and lightweight material that can be molded into different shapes. One of those shapes is in the form of a ladder.
The Louisville fiberglass ladder has specs that are based on safety-focused engineering, while also being non-conductive to electricity. A 6 feet fiberglass ladder will be applicable for most residential electrical work.
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Fiberglass ladders are an excellent choice for both certified electricians and non-professionals. The material is non-conductive and will not conduct electricity if a wire is in contact with the ladder’s surface. These types of ladders are also made of a material that is both fire-resistant and can be especially used for heavy-duty work. Electricians also use fiberglass ladders as they are lightweight and relatively easy to carry around on a daily basis.
Also Read: Which tools are used to strip and cut wires?
Fiberglass is a composite material that consists of two parts: reinforcement (usually glass fibers) and resin. The resin can be either thermosetting or thermoplastic. The most common type of fiberglass used in construction is called “fiberglass mat”. This type of fiberglass has a high strength-to-weight ratio and can, while undergoing manufacturing, be molded into any shape.
Ladder Made of Wood
Wooden ladders (made from timber) are also an excellent choice of material for working around electricity. Wood is non-conductive to electricity; meaning, electricity will not (in dry wood), be able to let electrons move from one place to another. Generally, by working around relatively low-voltage as an electrician, wood applies as an insulator against electrical hazards.
Prevent Accidents on Ladders and Potential Hazards
Now we know, what general types of ladders should be used for electrical work. But you should also know some key things about ladder safety, basic height recommendations, and potential hazards of working in different environments. If you were to buy a ladder or are already in possession of one, here are some general tips and rules to check off.
Maximum working load: Most ladders will have the maximum recommended weight load appearing directly on the side of the ladder. If not, you should look up the specs of the specific type of ladder and brand. A typical fiberglass ladder should be able to handle 300lb (including the person and tools).
Choosing the right height: This will obviously also depend on the type of work you do. However, in most cases, a 6-foot ladder will be enough for most types of residential electrical work. A rather small ladder like a 6-footer is also relatively lightweight, which is a nice feature if you’re moving the ladder around a lot.
Inspect the ladder: You should always check for any visual damages to the ladder. This includes the inspection of hinges, steps, bolts, screws, and visual hardware. A ladder will, like most things, wear down over time, and you should therefore inspect the ladder from time to time.
Non-slip feet: All four feet on the ladder should be covered with anti-slip material, which in most cases consists of rubber. If this is not a part of the ladder, it could pose a risk by working on slippery surfaces or difficult weather conditions.
Highest standing level: As a general rule, the third-highest step on a ladder is the highest standing level. If you were doing work on a 6-foot ladder, the fourth step from the ground up would be the highest standing level.
The 5 key things, mentioned here are important aspects to consider when working on ladders. New Mexico University and The Environmental Health Safety & Risk Management have also provided us with an extensive and formal 13-step checklist for general ladder safety.
If you would like to see if a certain ladder complies with official safety guidelines, you can go through the extensive checklist by downloading this one-page resource right here.