Ensuring you take your next step safely

Step Ladder FAQ’s

  • By: Gareth
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Can step ladders be repaired?

As a general rule, it is not a great idea to repair a set of step ladders. When step ladders are manufactured, they are assembled and tested rigorously under varied conditions to ensure that it meets certain criteria.

For further reading on how manufacturers test ladders in order for them to achieve their classifications, you can read our article on ladder classification here.

When a step ladder has sustained damaged, it most definitely will have its strength weakened. This could mean that it could fail when under load and thus causing a potentially serious injury.

Even though it may be tempting to save money and try to repair a set of ladders, you will not be able to guarantee that the repair will perform when under load.

It could fail again and also cause a serious injury. You may also find another article of ours interesting where we answer some common ladder questions here.

If you were thinking about getting a professional to repair your ladders, it would indeed be the preferred option as they would be able to give you a guarantee on the repair.

In reality, this would cost more than the ladders are worth and also be more than the cost of replacing them. This is why most people treat them as disposable items.

Presenting, The Telescopic Ladder

The ingenious Telescopic ladder could be the only ladder you’d ever need. Easy to store, use inside and outside and easy to transport!

Are step ladders safe?

Step ladders are of course safe to use if you use the correct step ladder for your task and also follow some basic safety tips along with the manufacturers instructions.

Step ladders are often used to gain access to parts of buildings, roofs etc which can be difficult or dangerous if reached in any other way.

They are also used for high level painting, decorating and window cleaning for example. They can be a very safe way to access these areas if done so properly.

A step ladder used correctly is safe to use, but there are some basic rules that should be followed at all times when using a step ladder.

Always make sure the step ladder you are using is placed on a firm footing, never place one on an uneven surface. This can cause a ladder to lean when loaded.

Always try to hold onto the step ladder with both hands while standing on it and never carry anything in your hands when climbing up or down from a ladder.

This can lead to you not holding onto the ladder at all when climbing as you’ll have to let go as you higher and you’ll have something in the other hand. We also have another article on the benefits of step ladders with handrails here.

Always fully expand any ‘A’ frame step ladder and fully engage any hinged stays. Basic tips include not standing on the top treads or over reach which will alter your centre of gravity.

You can find more ladder safety in our linked safety tip article here.

What are the safest step ladders?

The safest step ladders will have several features that will be enhanced from cheaper looking similar step ladders.

These features will include a more robust build quality. If looking at a ladder using the old classification system, look for one that is Class 1 rated.

If you are looking at a ladder which has the new revised classification system, look for one that has a ‘Professional’ rating.

These will be more robust. Also, look for step ladders that have a wider foot stance or stabilising bars at the bottom. This will drastically widen the ladder’s footprint and increase stability.

These more robust classification ladders will have stronger hinged lock stays and feel much safer when handled. The side stiles and foot treads will have a much thicker gauge of aluminium and not deflect as much.

You can read our article on the old and new ladder classifications here.

How often should step ladders be inspected?

Inspection regimes for step ladders can differ from company to company within a commercial or professional setting.

As a rule however, it is always advised within both a domestic or commercial environment that any ladder is subjected to a thorough visual check before every use.

A visual check will determine if the ladder has been subjected to any damage or deterioration from its last use.

You may think “what can happen” but situations can arise typically from people borrowing ladders without you knowing and damaging them.

Another situation may be that they have been reversed into or driven over by a car when in your garage. When you think about it, any number of reasons can result in ladder damage.

The purpose of the visual check is to determine if there is any damage that may result in you falling as a result of the ladder being weakened by damage.

There are also some ladder’s that come with manufacturer instructions for you to complete a ladder inspection at specific time intervals.

Where the ladder is used frequently, the ladder inspection should be carried out more often than if it were only occasionally used.

It’s a good idea to advise companies of staff who use ladders frequently like painters or joiners that they need to check more often than employees using it only occasionally (e.g. cleaners).

This is because professional ladder users tend to apply more force on any one area of the ladder, therefore increasing risks of damage which can weaken them substantially.

Where possible, step ladders in commercial settings should have their inspection records readily available for analysis at any given moment in time.

Can step ladders be used as straight ladders?

A set of step ladders can be used as a straight ladder if used carefully however it isn’t ideal.

In order for it to be used that way, the step ladder needs to remain with its legs folded closed.

Depending on the design of the folded support side, (not the tread side), there may be cross members or diagonal members that provide rigidity and they may interfere with your feet when climbing the treads.

You not be able to place your whole foot on a tread. This could compromise your balance and at worse, be a trip hazard. You would also need to ensure the foot of the step ladder is at the correct angle.

Step ladders usually have angled feet so that when opened, they sit flat to the ground.

If you angle a step ladder against a wall for example, if it’s not at the correct angle, not all of the feet will sit on the floor. If they don’t, it will have a tendency to tip.

However although using step ladders as straight ladders isn’t ideal, sometimes there is no other options available. It may be too short or too tall for you or it may be all that is readily available in an emergency situation such as a fire.

If it is your only option, make sure you are constantly aware of how much weight each step can take and step slowly. The best policy is to use the correct ladder for the task at hand.

Can step ladders be used on stairs?

Traditional step ladders are not ideal for using on stairs as they are quite limited in their use. To be used safely, they really need to be fully opened and any safety features fully engaged.

The only place where a step ladder could work would be on a top landing or half landing where the legs can be fully opened.

You must however be extremely careful because there maybe a situation where if a fall should happen, there might not be any stair handrail to break your fall.

Step ladders are limited in their use on stairs because they wouldn’t be on the correct angle if used on stair treads. This can cause massive instability and a fall risk.

There are much more appropriate stair systems that can provide more flexible access and even a small, level working platform.

Some combination type ladder systems are so flexible, you may not need another ladder! Another type of system would be an ‘A’ frame type telescopic ladder.

These have the advantage of being able to have their legs retracted on one side giving you perfect climbing angles on stairs.

You can read our article on stair ladder systems here.

The Combination stair ladder!

The combination stair ladder not only has the flexibility to adjust to suit your stair type, it’s combination types are perfect for all those inside and outside jobs!

When can step ladders be used on site?

Step ladders can be used on construction site as long as company policy says that it’s okay to do so. This will usually come with some conditions.

These may include the user undertaking some basic ladder training, filling out a ladder permit so supervising staff know the locations of people using them and the ladders themselves adhering to the classification expected by the company.

Other factors to think about is if any of the intended works are electrical in nature. In this case, fibreglass ladders should be the only option.

You can read more about the difference between aluminium and fibreglass ladders in our article here.

What are step ladders made of?

Step ladders can be made from several materials. These can include wood, steel, fibreglass and aluminium.

The most popular material is aluminium. This is because step ladders made from aluminium are light, strong and rust resisting.

The step ladders made from this material can be as long as 2.5 metres and as short as 0.8 metres to fit the needs of the user.

Many step ladders have a telescopic design which can extend or shorten depending on the desired ladder length..

Step ladders made from wood are not so popular nowadays and are only really seen forgotten about in sheds or garages. Wooden types can be heavy and over time weaken with deterioration.

Steel versions can be strong but can rust badly over time if kept outside. They also can be quite heavy.

Fibreglass ladders are much lighter and can be used in all situations that aluminium can be used. They are specialised however and are mainly used by people working on electrical systems as they insulate against electric shocks.

Aluminium ladders are the most abundant. They are strong, lightweight and rust resisting in most environments. Because of this, it makes them a popular choice.

Are ladders colour coded?

Some ladders can be colour coded or have colour coded identifying labels or stickers. This mainly is for the old ladder classification system.

The old Class 1 ladders would be the most robust type and be for ‘industrial’ use. These would have a dark blue sticker.

The old Class 3 ladders would be the least robust and be for ‘domestic’ use only. These would of had a grey sticker. Finally, the EN131 ladders would fit in between these two classes and be known as ‘commercial’.

These would have a green sticker. The new classification has basically removed the ‘domestic’ Class 3 ladder and reduced the classes to only two.

These are ‘Professional’ and ‘Non-professional’ and will be labelled as such. Both of these ladder classes have upgraded the robustness of all ladders making them much safer.

Can you use a step ladder on a scissor lift?

No!…..it is not good practice to use a step ladder in this situation. In fact, it is not a good idea to use a step ladder or any ladder that will elevate you higher than the supplied guardrail.

In the event that you become unstable, there is nothing that will prevent or arrest your fall. You will basically tumble over the top of the guardrail.

Secondly, there is also the remote chance that whilst standing on the steps while on the platform that someone could accidentally move the scissor lift (or MEWP – Mobile Elevating Working Platform).

This could then could instability and a subsequent fall.