Ladders: One Really Cool Tool for the Handy Man
By: The Working Man
Most people in the world already know what a ladder is. Some type
of ladder can be found in nearly every home and work place in the
modern world. Ladders have been in use for all of human history,
there is one depicted in a Mesolithic cave painting in Valencia,
Spain, and ladders were in common use in Egypt and Israel in
Here is a basic definition of a ladder:
A ladder is a tool that is designed to allow a person to climb to
a point higher than they can reach from the ground or to descend
from a height. Ladders have rungs or steps that allow the worker
to climb or descend. Some ladders are rigid and are leaned
against a vertical surface such as a wall for climbing, others
have two sides that provide stability and balance and can be used
free-standing. Other ladders are made of ropes for flexibility,
fast deployment, and easy of transport. Some ladders, such as
fire escapes, may be permanently fastened to a building, and some
ladders may be set up as horizontal bridges between two points.
Rigid ladders were first made from wood, in fact the first
ladders were most likely made from tree trunks or woven
vegetation, but newer ladders are more commonly made from
aluminum or fiberglass.
Although wooden ladders are still widely available, aluminum is
much lighter than wood and more durable. Aluminum ladders are
fairly corrosion resistant and low cost, both flame and water
resistant, and are available in nearly every ladder type from
step stools to extension ladders.
However, never use an aluminum ladder if you are working with or
around electricity or electrical wires unless the ladder has
insulated feet. Aluminum is a great conductor of electricity, and
as a consequence many people have been burned or even
electrocuted via aluminum ladders when the ladder accidentally
came in contact with an electrical line or was struck by
The negative side of aluminum ladders is that they may be
corroded and weakened by exposure to damp, and especially salt,
air, and also by chemicals. Aluminum is also more easily bent or
damaged by rough usage.
Fiberglass ladders are the best choice for working near
electrical lines since fiberglass is an electrical insulator.
Fiberglass also has the advantage that it is not commonly damaged
by dampness, will not rot, and doesn't bend easily. Fiberglass
ladders, however, weigh more than aluminum ladders of the same
size and also cost more.
Rope ladders are used for specialized needs such as a fast
deployment fire escape or for climbing curved surfaces. Rope
ladders can be made from rope, of course, but steel and aluminum
are also often used.
Since ladders are so important to so many areas of modern life,
people are naturally constantly trying to devise new tool
attachments and improvements in design. But no matter how
innovative and modern a ladder may be, the first key to
successful ladder use lies with the user. Under any circumstance
a ladder can be dangerous if you don't follow safety procedures,
so be sure to do so.
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