Fiberglass ladders can be damaged by sunlight, exposing itchy fibers. Eventually, it weakens the ladder, which will need to replaced.
In this podcast, Dan Clark talks with ladder expert Dave Francis of Little Giant Ladder Systems. Dave explains the proper care and feeding of fiberglass ladders, and why UV damage can’t be repaired with coatings or sealers.
Dave also gives a brief description of wood ladders, and why they are sometimes conductive.
(:00) intro music and effects
(:04) Dan Clark: Itchy fiberglass ladders. Uh-oh. That’s a sign you could have a ladder safety hazard. Listen and I’ll tell you why.
Hi there, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.
Dave Francis: Fiberglass ladders are damaged by the sun. It takes a long time.
Dan: That’s Dave Francis, National Safety Director of Little Giant Ladder Systems.
Dave: The best thing to do is keep your ladders out of the sun as much as possible.
Dan: Ultraviolet light does it. Causes fiber-bloom.
(:35) Dave: If it’s faded, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. But once the outer surface starts to break down and you start to feel the fibers inside the resin, then it’s time to get another fiberglass ladder.
Dan: If your ladder gets itchy, it’s time for a new one. They’re not really repairable.
Dave: If you’ve ever seen pool equipment, diving boards, benches, slides, in the past, after they’ve sat in the sun for a long time, they start to become brittle and crack. That same thing happens with fiberglass ladders.
Dan: Can it be recoated?
(1:05) Dave: Other industries have moved to coatings that protect fiberglass, but they’re conductive coatings. So, in a pool industry situation, they’re not worried about conductivity. But, in ladders, it doesn’t make any sense to put a conductive coating on a nonconductive fiberglass ladder.
Dan: Is there any hope for a nonconductive coating?
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Dave: We’re trying to find a coating or a resin that does not break down in UV radiation.
(1:34) Dan: And most of the time, fiberglass is the only option.
Dave: Most job sites will require a fiberglass ladder be used on the job, even if you’re not working on electricity. Ladders tend to be communal in nature and if you’re not using it, somebody else will. You never know who’s going grab your ladder and use it on an electrical application. So, it’s standard practice to just have fiberglass ladders on jobsites.
Dan: Before fiberglass and aluminum, we just had wood.
(2:01) Dave: Used to be, all ladders were wood. There’s some inconsistencies with wood. Wood is nonconductive, but wood that’s wet becomes conductive and, so, it was difficult to maintain the integrity of the side rails and steps, and also to know whether it was conductive or nonconductive at the moment, because of the moisture.
Dan: Then came aluminum.
Dave: We switched to aluminum but then quickly switched from aluminum to fiberglass because fiberglass is nonconductive.
Dan: So the moral of the story: keep your ladders healthy and your workers will stay safe. Dave, what’s a good website for more information?
(2:36) Dave: American Ladder Institute website at LadderSafety.org is going to be your best bet.
Dan: That’s Dave Francis, National Safety Director of Little Giant Ladder Systems. And that’s all for this episode on Itchy Fiberglass Ladders. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. creativesafetysupply.com