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Loft ladders are one of the only types of ladder that everyone will use at one time or another because they are a feature of nearly every home. Most modern homes have a ladder built in to the loft hatch, or one that can be pulled down when the hatch is opened using a pole. Older homes generally have smaller loft hatches and unless renovations have been carried out to enlarge the hatch size to install a purpose built loft ladder there is no way of accessing the space without using either a straight ladder propped against the hatch, or a step ladder placed underneath the loft opening. This approach often involves standing on the top rung of the step ladder in order to get enough height to swing into the loft, which is a dangerous move and something which ladder manufacturers implore people not to do in their safety information.
Standing on the top rung or a handrail of a step ladder to access the loft is inherently filled with risk, as the very act of balancing on top of the ladder is precarious and unstable. Additionally, the ladder is at risk of falling when a person launches themselves off the top when trying to enter the loft, and there is the danger of them being moved by another person in the house, leaving someone stranded in the attic. Recently an 89-year-old man died after falling from his step ladder while retrieving items from the loft. His wife was home at the time but did not realise what he was doing, only being alerted when she heard a crash and investigated to find her husband on the landing with the ladder on top of him.
Purpose built loft ladders do not have these problems; being attached to the loft hatch or otherwise secured inside the loft space means they cannot fall over or be moved in any way. Although there is no risk of the ladder falling down the typical loft ladder is not without its own risks. Many models are spring loaded for easy stowing and deployment, but caution should be exercised when operating these loft ladders, as they can spring back and cause nasty injuries, as former X-Factor winner Sam Bailey found out recently while she was getting a suitcase down from the loft. As she was putting the ladder back it sprung out and hit her in the head, knocking her unconscious for several minutes. She was treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to hospital for observation, but has since made a full recovery.
If you are still using a freestanding ladder to access your loft space then why not make 2018 the year you make your house a little safer and get a proper loft ladder installed. Not only will it be safer, but because it is so much easier to transport items up and down you can have a good clear out and store items out of the way in the loft. Whatever type of loft ladder you have (and there are many different styles available) always exercise caution when accessing the roof space, and keep any hatch poles out of the reach of children. With proper care and respect your loft ladder could become your favourite thing about the house, rather than a potentially dangerous object.