Cool Tools: Ladders

Installing and maintaining a building’s structured wiring system often means accessing locations that are out of reach from floor level, and many workers choose to use various types of scaffolding, including compact work platforms on wheels that provide a base for overhead work.

However, for many jobs, the best choice is a portable ladder that can be easily moved around and positioned for those out-of-reach spots.

The wooden ladder with cross pieces attached to two side rails was only one step in the evolution of these tools. The BBC’s “History of the World” program cites evidence that ladders were used as far back as 10,000 years ago, and they even appear in the Bible. The folding stepladder dates back to the American Civil War.

Today’s ladders come in many configurations, allowing them to be customized to specific trades, including electrical. Multiple types and sizes of ladders include many convenience and safety features and accessories to make the climber’s work easier and safer. The materials from which they are made also have adapted. While wooden ladders still are available, many buyers prefer aluminum, and electricians and structured wiring specialists want ladders made of nonconductive fiberglass.

Six- and 8-foot stepladders and 24- and 28-foot extension ladders are popular sellers for integrated systems work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American National Standards Institute have strict standards for classifying ladders (see box). Structured wiring technicians and other professionals usually choose heavy-duty rated ladders over less expensive consumer products.

Chris Filardi, Werner’s vice president of marketing, said the two most popular ladder categories for electricians and structured wiring installers are fiberglass stepladders and extension ladders.

“The fiberglass construction of the ladders is essential for professionals working near electrical sources,” Filardi said. “Werner’s latest products for these professionals are new compact fiberglass extension ladders, introduced in the fall of 2012. Their three-piece design makes these compact ladders 20 to 25 percent shorter than standard two-piece extension ladders. [They] were developed specifically for contracting and electrical professionals where the maneuverability and transportation of ladders is extremely important. They are ideal for transporting ladders inside full-size vans and on top of compact vans. The Type 1A compact extension ladder comes in five sizes between 16 to 32.”

Santiago Veylia, Louisville Ladder’s marketing director, said his company concentrates on providing ladders that are easy to use and transport.

“Important features of today’s models include pinch-resistant spreader braces and inside spreader braces, so ladders may lay flat while being transported,” he said. “Some models have ergonomic, nonmarring handles and grips. Convenient Pro Tops are designed to hold tools being used on the ladder, and various accessories make jobs easier. Fiberglass construction is ideal since it is nonconductive.”

Werner’s Filardi said many of Werner’s fiberglass stepladders offer a Holster Top to secure tools from falling while keeping them close at hand, thereby increasing user productivity. The Holster Top is compatible with the ladder’s Lock-In system.

“Lock-In accessories are preferred by many wiring installers,” he said. “Specifically, the job bucket expands the work surface and customizes the ladder top by holding large or odd-shaped items. There are four storage compartments to keep small parts separated. In addition, a utility hook keeps cords from getting tangled in the ladder.”

With a duty rating of 375 pounds, the popular Old Blue Series Electrician’s Ladder series has customized holster tops with tool lasso sockets to accommodate more tools and secure tools from falling. The ladders have wire spool holders for both large and small spools and conduit holders with a built-in cutting system. Fiberglass rails are nonconductive, and an edge-bracing system helps to decrease damage to rails, Filardi said.

Falls are one of the most common construction accidents resulting in injury, and use of ladders involves multiple safety risks (see Safety column on page 10). Primary causes of accidents with ladders include overloading; failure to position ladders on firm, level surfaces; climbing on top rungs or a stepladder’s platform; and careless handling of tools and equipment while on them.

Ensuring ladders are used safely is a primary focus of Werner, Louisville Ladder, and other manufacturers, which is why they provide safety information and training. Louisville Ladder’s CLIMB Academy can be accessed on, and among Werner’s safety material is a collection of handy ladder safety tips, which is downloadable from

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer
Jeff Griffin, Oklahoma City, is a construction journalist specializing in the electrical, telecommunications and underground utility construction industries. Contact him at .

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