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Choosing the Right Ladder For the Job

It’s one of the great workplace safety myths: ladders are not allowed to be used in the workplace. Of course they are: the Work at Height Regulations1 say they can be a sensible option for short, low-risk tasks.

There are other weird and wonderful ladder myths still doing the rounds, and here at First Mats we’ve heard most of them. No, you don’t need to be trained to use a ladder, and there’s no ban on using ladders to access scaffolding2.

It is true, though, that ladders must be safe and fit for purpose. And there are a huge number of different types of ladders, from step ladders to warehouse steps and extension ladders, each with their own safety features.

With that in mind, here’s our run-down of the main types of ladder, with a brief description of each type:

Combination ladders

If you only want one ladder, the combination ladder is probably your best bet. It works, as the name suggests, as a multi-function ladder.

If you’re a DIY enthusiast, our three-way aluminium combination decorating ladder can be set up as an extension ladder, an extended A-frame stepladder and a stairwell ladder. Other ladders for trade use can function in many more ways, including one that offers up to 24 different configurations!

Combination Ladder

That means you can use the right type and size of ladder for the job in hand, rather than making do with the wrong equipment – a common cause of ladder accidents.

Look out for other safety features that add extra strength, rigidity and stability. Our Heavy Duty Aluminium Ladder is a good example: it has deep rungs, a telescopic stabiliser bar to reduce sideways movement, and robust aluminium locking stays.

Extension ladders

If you need to reach high locations, but want to transport your ladder across different work sites or store it away without taking up too much room, an extension ladder (or a ‘leaning ladder’) is a good option. Our extension ladders extend up to 10m in length.

All extension ladders need a stable structure to lean it against, such as a wall, and a level, non-slippery surface to place the two feet on. If the ladder does need to rest on an uneven surface, ladder levellers can be used to make sure the rail supports are equal.

Extension Ladders

Our extension ladders (available in two and three sections) are built in the UK from strong aluminium, a material which makes them twist-resistant. They also include a stabilising bar, to reduce sideways movement which makes the ladder feel more stable when it’s being used.

Fibreglass ladders

The great advantage of fibreglass ladders is they are non-conductive, which means they can be used around live electricity – making them essential for electricians and others working with electricity.

Our fibreglass ladders are manufactured to trade standard, so they’re more durable than domestic rated ladders, and most are rated to the EN131 safety Standard.

Fibreglass Extension Ladders

We recommend our super-strong King Kombo industrial combination ladder, which can be used as a stepladder, an extension ladder and a leaning ladder. The ladders have a ground cue built into the last step, which vibrates and gives a clicking sound to let you know when it’s safe to step off, as well as heavy duty feet and wide flared stabilising legs.  An excellent safe all-rounder. (https://www.firstmats.co.uk/products/king-kombo-industrial-combination-ladder)

Step ladders

Step ladders generally fall in one of two categories: platform and swing back (also known as builders step ladders or painters steps). The platform step ladder has a large platform at the top, making working at height comfortable and safe. Swing back steps are popular with painters and builders, as they are light and can be easily fitted in the back of a van.

Step Ladder

We also offer deep tread versions, which (https://www.firstmats.co.uk/products/deep-tread-aluminium-step-ladders) increase safety and reduce fatigue while standing on them.

Warehouse steps

Finally, warehouse steps, sometimes known as ‘aircraft steps’, are mobile staircases mounted on wheels, and they’re designed for picking and restocking around warehouses and storerooms. They’re also suitable for shops with stock on high shelves and libraries.

Warehouse Steps

For these tasks, they’re a safer choice than step ladders. They have a large platform to stand on and a double handrail for added safety (we also have a single-sided option for maintaining factory equipment). 

There are several options available, right up to 14 tread versions, for a working height of 4.95m.

See our full range of Industrial Ladders for more heavy-duty access products.




  1. Work at Height Regulations 2005
  2. Safe use of stepladders and ladders, HSE




Richard O'Connor's Headshot

Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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