Ladders For Installers Guide

By IPVM Team, Published Sep 25, 2018, 10:17am EDT (Info+)

Ladders are one of the most important pieces of worksite equipment for the surveillance technician. Too often, however, even highly experienced technicians are using old or defective ladders in an unsafe or inefficient manner.

As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states, "Falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. This guide will show you how to choose the right ladder for the job and how to use it safely, whether you are a brand new apprentice or a crew supervisor.

Inside this guide, we provide detailed information including videos on:

  • Step ladders vs extension ladders vs articulated ladders
  • Duty ratings
  • One-person ladder carrying techniques
  • Ladder safety
  • Fiberglass vs Aluminum vs Wood

Readers should also see our other installation training guides:

Ladder Types

There are three types of ladders commonly used in surveillance and security installs:

  • Step ladders
  • Extension ladders
  • Articulating ladders

As well as variants of each. We review these types below.

Step Ladders

Most common are step ladders, which consist of an A-shaped frame with steps for rungs on one side (or rarely both sides). They are available in many sizes, from small 2' step stools to high reach ~20' models, and are popular for their ease of use and often, but not always, lighter weight. They are best for heights ~16 or less, but may also be necessary when lifts or extension ladders are not an option, such as servicing a ceiling mounted camera at ~20', not uncommon at big box stores. In addition to standard step ladders, there is a less common variant call the podium ladder, which removes steps in order to create a larger work platform. This allows users to work in all directions, including behind them, not (safely) possible on a stepladder.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders are used when greater reach than step ladders provide is required. They are typically made of two (or more) sections.

  • Bed: The bed section consists of round (not flat) rungs attached to a beam, and composes the base of the ladder.
  • Fly: The fly section is the bit that extends from the bed section when you pull the rope (called the halyard). The halyard is threaded through a pulley.

Rung locks lock the fly into place and prevent it from moving so that ladder can be climbed or moved. The bottom of the ladder has a moving assembly with a flat, non-slip surface called the foot pad as well as spikes called teeth or cleats. Extension ladders are best for heights between 16' and 32', beyond that lifts are recommended.

Proper Extension Ladder Set Up

When setting up an extension ladder, a proper angle is important:

  • Setting the ladder at too steep an angle may result in kick out, where the feet / bottom of the ladder slide away from the wall.
  • Conversely, setting the ladder more straight up and down with the feet too close to the wall can result in the user falling backwards away from the building.

There is a process for generally determining if a ladder is set at the right angle:

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Comments (28)

Great topic to cover.

One of our clients (an integrator) had one of their staff pass away from a fall off a ladder. It was no more than 2m in height, landed on the back of his head. He wasn't wearing a helmet.

I still find it scary that one can die from a seemingly routine task.

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Not an exciting topic. A seemingly simple topic. But people do well to head as a reminder everyone now and then.

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To expand upon this due to insurance and contractor requirements in many facilities or job sites you can no longer use a step ladder over 4' to 6' without being tied off. On some construction project we have been on lately unless you can reach what you are working on with a 4' ladder then you have to use a lift. This is really important to know when bidding a project the safety requirements of the site. Not having the price of a lift in your bid could tank a small job. More importantly the use of extension ladders is becoming even more prohibited on some sites.

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Thanks for sharing this. I had not heard of those requirements anywhere yet. But I will be sure to look out for them now.

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You will know because it will be mandated either by the customer or the general contractor. The main thing is to know before you bid a project.

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I did some brief work at a gold mine years ago that had this crazy ladder rule. Basically couldn't use ladders of any height, unless it had a platform and railing. But some how using rolling scaffolding was fine. Strange rules out there.

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We have been asked to start using the ladders with a platform but we have held off on that for now.

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Keep in mind that these requirements are typically regionalized. Certain parts of the country will have more stringent requirements than others.

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Aluminium ladders do not meet code in most locales when you are working with cabling. Code almost always requires non-conductive ladders.

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Also most aluminum ladders are not that stable either. Those types are typically very light construction other than say a Little Giant. I used to carry a Little Giant all over the place. Back breaking but very reliable and versatile. There is a fiberglass version as well. 

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"Many will tell you to throw the ladder with the fly out so that it faces towards you when you climb it. Those people are wrong. Ladder manufacturers will tell you to throw the ladder with the fly in, facing the building. "

What am I reading this wrong fly out is wrong? What even in the demonstration video the fly is out towards the climber. This can't be right.

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Dustin - thanks for the comment. This report was an older report that we heavily rewrote and missed that. I have updated that section. It is more common now to find ladders designed for fly out use, like the one I demonstrate in the video.

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They actually make fiber glass multi ladders nowadays , werner and little giant both..

Werner:

Werner 22 ft. Reach Height Multi-Purpose Fiberglass PRO Ladder with 300 lbs. Load Capacity Type IA-FMT-22 - The Home Depot

Little giant:

Little Giant Conquest Ladder | Type 1A | Conquest Ladders

I also recommend using a dolly or cart with ladder storage or carry hooks for easier transport of the low to mid height ladders as it save time going back and forth to truck van or job site storage , but also easier on the lower back.. and Id say for also if you do access control then really cart is a must have set up

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Great post. I was wondering if something like this existed. Thanks

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I never knew the handy trick about having the ladder be 1 additional foot away from the wall for every four feet high. Once growing up I had a ladder slip out from under me, and now I can see why.

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Anyone use the Little Giant King Kombo ladder? Seen it all over Instagram, looks like a neat little ladder...

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Anyone Use The Little Giant King Kombo Ladder?

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Great points on safety. I was doing a job pressure washing a house and needed a latter to get to the gutters, and luckily was on grass but when i got to the top my ladder was to close to the house and got top heavy, causing me to almost loose balance and fall, exact scenario talked about here, never to carful.

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What's the rule of thumb for a 1-man 2-ladder install? Took this pic at my car dealer while waiting for service.

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You need one of these bad boys:

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I am extremely late to the party but what is the advantage here for this guy in having a second ladder?

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That's a terrible way to carry an extension ladder. Your weight-bearing arm should be around it (not through it) holding the base so it's braced against your body for vertical carry. In your example there is nothing preventing the ladder from falling backwards except the strength of the tech's arms which is a great way to pull a muscle and damage property with your falling ladder. It also doesn't allow for a simple transition to horizontal shoulder carry to clear obstacles, and just looks awkward and uncomfortable because the rungs are in the way.

You should also mention that extension ladders are rated by total length of the base + fly and is NOT an accurate representation of their total height, as the base and fly need several feet of overlap at full extension to be safely locked together. A typical 28' extension ladder for instance will only extend 23' total. The taller the ladder, the more overlap which subtracts from total height.

Little Giants are excellent ladders and every tech should have one. They're heavy but they're FAR more versatile than keeping and hauling around half a dozen different step ladders. They even fold out flat as a quasi-extension ladder and with the wide bases are very stable. Most of the work we do is on them. Pro tip: get one that has wheels, they are invaluable for moving it around.

Best extension ladder we have is the 16' Louisville. It comprises two 8' sections and so is only 8' tall when collapsed, which makes it a dream in residential scenarios. One of my former employers used to issue us 10' straights which were frequently too long to get under soffits with a deck. The extended length on the 16' is 13' which will get you high enough for most small commercial jobs and almost any residential. We use ours A LOT. Beyond that we either use the 24' or 32'. In telecom we all had 28s which is a decent one-ladder-only solution, but you will invariably encounter a job where you wish you had a 32' and other jobs where a 24' was easier to manipulate.

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i thought some of the tips were very helpful. Even safety aside, ladder re- adjustments add time and restrict work flow. Thank you

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There's little to learn about ladder safety and lots to go wrong. We certainly have come a long way from living in the trees.

My 2 main ladders are a 6ft Werner fiberglass and a 17 ft little giant. With the exception of reaching to the top of roofs or poles, these 2 ladders get the job done quite well.

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Love the Little Giant! I must get one. The man in the video makes it look light. Mine is very heavy. I love it versatility!

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The little giant works well for most jobs, it has a good foot stand that saves the feet from torture of standing on a single rung for too long.

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If you're wearing appropriate safety boots with a rigid shank, that shouldn't be a problem.

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Ladder safety is definitely a serious matter. I had just purchased a new home, ranch style on a crawl space, and was putting up Christmas lights using an aluminum extension ladder. It was a cheap ladder, what I was able to afford when I bought it. I was just getting level with the gable vent at the peak of the roof when that cheap extension ladder snapped. A neighbor 100 yards away heard the snap and me hitting the ground and came running. I was lucky, I had the wind knocked out of me and sported some colorful bruises for Christmas, but nothing broken. I won't get on a ladder anymore that isn't rated for my weight plus tools and equipment.

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