Paul Burton, Product Development Director for WernerCo, looks at the rise of fibreglass as a material preference and the key role it plays as parts of installer safety.
Each year in the UK, workers from across the electrical industry face the risk of shocks conducted by metal ladders. Despite being what to many may seem an obvious consideration, there are still installers who either don’t use fibreglass ladders or who aren’t supplied with one by their employer.
For all electrical installations, use of fibreglass ladders in spark-risk environments is a necessity that should not be ignored. Use of aluminium for such work, whilst not illegal, is highly risky and could result in shock or even death for installers. Why then, if the risk is so high don’t more electricians use fibreglass today and why has uptake in the UK been relatively slow compared to our American cousins?
In the US, over 50% of all ladders sold across all trades and construction industries are fibreglass. Despite current UK sales figures being lower than in US markets, Werner’s UK sales have been rising year-on-year since the company launched its fibreglass range in the UK in 2002. At the time, sales averaged 100 stepladders per month, but the figure has risen steadily, demonstrating the increasing demand for fibreglass.
Whilst fibreglass ladders have many benefits over other materials, the key feature is its non-conductivity. All ladders have electrically non-conductive stiles up to 30,000 volts, which means the risk of shock can be avoided. This feature is a prerequisite for those working near electricity, for undertaking electrical contracting jobs or for domestic electrical works.
One of the biggest players in fibreglass ladder production is WernerCo, a company whose Youngman brand is perhaps better known in the UK market.
The fibreglass range features seven-layers of fibreglass-constructed rails, which maintain a smooth surface even after weathering and ensures maximum protection for the user.
WHY CHOOSE FIBREGLASS
■ Strong Inherently strong and robust, WernerCo’s range of fibreglass ladders and stepladders offer high resistance to denting and twisting. Consistent quality and low maintenance are characteristics of fibreglass, which lead to cost savings over time. Competitive whole life costs are a recognised benefit of fibreglass ladders over aluminium or wooden alternatives.
■ Durable Extremely resistant to weathering, fibreglass does not absorb moisture or significantly weaken in the sun, nor does it corrode or rust. Fibreglass is also non-marking, is warmer to the touch and retains its smooth surface over the duration of its lifetime. Fibreglass ladders are therefore ideal for specialist trades.
■ Safe Fibreglass does not conduct electricity, so it is safer to use around power lines or other live sources of electricity. Of all non-conductive options, fibreglass ladders weigh less and are therefore easier to lift, move and transport – a 6-tread fibreglass platform stepladder weights just 11.4kg.
Fit for purpose
To ensure safe operation, purchasers are advised to always buy safety-tested products that are compliant to the UK and European standards, avoiding cheaper alternatives that may not be fit for purpose and may damage easily. For example, WernerCo’s range features rails made using a proprietary pultrusion process, creating a seven-layer construction, resulting in a strong and uniform product.
Werner’s ‘rung-to-rail’ connection, featured on its extension ladder range, minimises the risk of twisting, while a special edge moulded brace and footpad combination on its stepladder range enhances bracing strength and helps to protects the base tread from damage if the ladder is dropped.
To aid productivity, choose a fibreglass extension ladder with D-shaped rungs for more comfortable standing or alternatively a fibreglass stepladder with a holster top with specifically designed tool and equipment holders. Certain models include lock-in accessory systems, which can accommodate accessories such as job buckets, utility hooks and tool lassos, allowing the contractor to tailor their work area to the job, whilst helping to minimise the risks of accidents.
A comprehensive range of fibreglass ladders is available within the Werner and Youngman brand categories, in a choice of trade and industrial-standard platform and swingback stepladders, along with a comprehensive selection of extension ladders.