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How to Choose a Ladder

Know the Difference
Some workers might not realize the differences from one ladder to the next. Having the right ladder for the job is the safest way to complete any task. Using the wrong ladder is extremely dangerous as it often leads to ladder misuse or abuse and can result in serious injury or even death. To get an idea of some of the different ways that ladders are used, just think about all of the tasks you and the other professionals do. Most of them require the use of ladders of different styles, sizes, duty ratings, and materials.
Some of the questions that may help you to understand your needs include:
  • Where will the ladder be used? Indoors or outdoors or both?
  • What projects or jobs will the ladder be used for?
  • Is there a possibility of working around electricity or overhead power lines?
  • How much weight will be on the ladder including tools and materials?
  • What obstacles might be in the way?
  • Will the ladder also be used to reach other heights?
  • What is the highest height you need to reach?

Ladder Finder

Our goals are very simple: We want to help you better understand how to choose the right ladder for the job and learn how to use ladders more safely. The four key elements of ladder selection are:

Step 1: Select Style - Which kind of ladder is right for the job?

The first step in ladder selection is choosing the right style of ladder for the job. Different styles of ladders are designed to keep you safe and productive when climbing or standing. Using the wrong style of ladder or simply ignoring the limitations of climbing equipment, can result in a fall or serious injury.

Step 2: Select Height - How high do you need to reach?

To ensure you choose the ladder best suited to your needs, follow the Werner height safety chart. The highest permitted standing level on a stepladder is two steps down from the top. A person standing higher may lose their balance and fall. A person’s maximum safe reaching height is approximately 4' higher than the height of the ladder. For example, a typical person can safely reach an 8' ceiling on a 4' ladder*.
Extension ladders should be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point, which may be the wall or roof line. This will allow enough length for proper setup, overlap of ladder sections, height restrictions of the highest standing level, and where appropriate, the extension of the ladder above the roof line. The highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.
* Assumes a 5'6" person with a vertical 12" reach.
++ Support points for extension ladders reflect section overlap, ladder angle, or 3' extension above roof line.

Step 3: Select Performance / Duty Rating - How much weight will be on the ladder?

Ladders are designed and constructed to safely hold up to a specific amount of weight. Werner ladders come in five different Duty Ratings identified by their grade and type. The Duty Rating is defined as the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. A person's fully clothed weight plus the weight of any tools and materials that are carried onto the ladder must be less than the duty rating.
Ladders are also built to handle the demands of various applications. For example, a ladder used frequently on a construction site by rugged workers should typically be stronger and have a corresponding higher Duty Rating than a ladder used by a lighter person for light chores around the home.
Workers should be advised to consider both the weight which will be on the ladder and the work application and to select the proper grade of ladder which is designed to handle anticipated usage.
The terminology of Ladder Grades, Duty Ratings, and Types may initially be confusing. Remember that the Duty Rating is the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. Duty Ratings are described in terms of pounds, such as a 300 pound (lbs.). A Type IA Duty Rated ladder is designed for extra heavy duty professional use where the total weight on the ladder does not exceed 300 lbs.

Step 4: Select Material - Will the ladder be used near or around electricity?

The final step in selecting the right ladder is the choice of the proper material. Werner offers ladders made from fiberglass and aluminum. Each material has characteristics which make it best for certain applications, or one material may simply fit the personal preferences of the user. For example, potential contact with electrical wires, or a hostile environment such as exposure to certain chemicals or outdoor storage, should have a major impact upon the material selection.
Different types of ladders are designed to keep you safe and productive when climbing or standing. Using the wrong style of ladder or simply ignoring the limitations of climbing equipment can result in a fall or serious injury.
Height is referring to the actual ladder height. Extension ladders should be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point, which may be the wall or roof line. The highest standing level is four rungs down from the top. The highest permitted standing level on a stepladder is two steps down from the top.

Reach height is the maximum reach assuming a 5’6” person with a vertical 12” reach.
Ladders are designed to safely hold up to a specific amount of weight. The Werner Performance System defines five different capacities using a color and star rating system. The Duty Rating is defined as the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. A person’s fully clothed weight plus the weight of any tools and materials that are carried onto the ladder must be less than the load capacity.

Werner offers ladder made from fiberglass and aluminum. Each material has characteristics which make it best for certain applications, or one material may simply fit the personal preferences of the user. For example, if working around electricity users should select fiberglass products due to their non-conductive side rails.