… And it will look after you.
Keeping you ladders in good condition is very important, not least because you'll get the longest service out of them if you look after them, but because a poorly maintained ladder can lead to fatal accidents. Anthony Dingle, the owner of a cleaning company in Devon, tragically fell and died last year because his ladder wasn't in the best shape. The ladder was made from wood and aluminium – the stiles being made of wood and the rungs metal. The ladder had been routinely stored on the roof of his van, and the years of prolonged exposure to the elements had undermined the structural soundness to the point where it was unsafe to use.
Dingle's colleague was footing the ladder while he climbed it, then he heard a crack as the wooden stile snapped, bringing the adjoining rung and Dingle down with it. The inquest heard that there were multiple small faults with the ladder, consistent with wear and tear and improper storage. Water damage, cracks and general wear all contributed to the unsafe condition of the ladder. Most of this damage was due to the way it had been stored, but regular inspections of the ladder could also have prevented this accident.
For those in the trades that use ladders routinely for work it may seem like a waste of time to remove the ladder from the roof every day and store it indoors, and indeed space could be a problem if there's nowhere suitable indoors to keep the ladder. Lockable garden storage boxes offer a solution here; these unobtrusive and slim line pods can be kept outdoors and locked up every night with your ladders and tools safely inside. At the very least, ladders should be covered if they are kept outside, even if they're safely locked to the roof rack, to stop water and ice damage.
The ideal scenario is an indoor storage solution, as this also prevents damage from extreme cold. Extreme cold, combined with wet weather, leads to water freezing in even the smallest crack, expanding it and causing further damage that could go unnoticed for weeks before the crack is noticeable during a visual inspection. Ladder brackets that can be fixed to a wall are ideal, as this hangs the ladder horizontally, which stops it becoming a dangerous toy for curious children.
Ladder brackets can be easily fixed to a garage wall, in a hallway or even up the side of the stairs in a pinch. These stop your ladders being stolen because they're locked in the house, and it protects them from environmental damage. When you have the ladder indoors and at eye level it's also a lot easier to spot damage that needs attention before it becomes a hazard.
Ladders that are left in place on building sites, such as those used for access between scaffolding stages, are prone to weather damage; so they should be regularly checked, and covered with a waterproof cover if extreme weather is forecast. From a Health and Safety perspective, ladders left in place overnight should also be fitted with a ladder guard to prevent them being climbed by potential thieves or troublemakers as any injuries sustained in the committing of a crime are the responsibility of the ladder or site owner, not the criminal.
As we can see, there are many simple things we can do to protect our ladders and keep them in a fit state. Failure to look after our ladders could lead to them failing us at an inopportune moment.