Painters' Ladders and Safety Recommendations

Climbing a ladder is an essential part of the job for any painter. However, if you aren’t careful, using a ladder may be dangerous. In this blog, we will discuss some of the ladders painters use and some basic safety measures for working with them. We’ll also share some tips and recommendations we hope you find useful. Painters and apprentices must be properly trained when working at heights. When working at a height of more than 10 feet in Ontario, you must have Working at Heights training and accreditation.

The types of Ladders Painters Use

Before we get into some safety tips for using a ladder, let’s first discuss what kind of ladders painters typically use. Painting companies use several kinds of ladders that they use, such as extension ladders,  step ladders, multi-position ladders, even rolling or platform ladders. Note: Some heights require the use of aerial lifts or scaffolding equipment to safely reach them.

A-frame Ladders (Step ladders)

Step ladders, also known as A-frame ladders, are made up of two hinged parts that can be folded together to store or transport them. Some of them come with a tray or some hook for your paint can. This is a helpful feature that allows painters to use both hands while working.

A painter is using a step ladder
An Ecopainting painter is using a step ladder

A-Frame ladders are usually lightweight and portable, depending on the material they are made of and their size. Aluminum and fiberglass are the most frequent materials used in construction. They range from three to ten feet tall, with bigger variants reaching 20 feet high. Due to their large base, they are quite stable.

Platform Ladders

A platform step ladder is a special type of painter’s ladder that is open in the front and has a solid top. While a traditional step ladder reminds you not to use the last couple of steps, a podium ladder gives you a safer working platform. It allows you to paint using both hands and work comfortably without the fear of falling. The top step (platform) is wider than usual and has protective pads to keep it from getting slippery. These ladders usually cost a little more than standard painter’s ladders because of their design and extra safety features but they do offer some distinct advantages.

The painter is painting with the use of a platform ladder
The top step of a platform ladder like this one is wider and safer for the painter to use.

Extension Ladders

These are aluminum or fiberglass ladders that can expand up to two or three times their original size. They extend up to 40 feet and come equipped with rope and pulley systems to make extending them as simple as possible. Although scaffolds offer more stability for painters, there are times when using an extension ladder is necessary or preferred.

Larger extension ladders, especially the fiberglass ones, are heavy and difficult to transport. If you need to move them to different job sites, installing a professional ladder rack to your van or truck is a great investment.

Exterior painter on a small 20 ft. extension ladder
Extension ladders come in all sizes. The painter here is using a 20ft. ladder.

Specialty Ladders

Multi-position painter’s ladders, as the name implies, may be adjusted to numerous angles. They typically have two or three parts that can be positioned at various angles for additional stability and ease of use. If you’re painting a high stairwell or working from an uneven site, this is quite a useful feature.

A rolling ladder is similar to a rolling scaffold in that it has four or five legs with wheels on the bottom. It consists of two components and extends between 8 and 22 feet high. These specialty ladders are big, heavy and difficult to transport. If you’re painting a room with very high ceilings, this may be the ideal ladder for you since they can reach such heights and roll from one location to another.

A telescopic extension ladder is similar to a standard extension ladder except that it can extend up to four times its original length. This makes them an extremely versatile ladder for painters that need a lightweight and portable ladder. Telescopic ladders are not meant to be used daily but because of their compact size they can fit in places where other ladders can’t such as small elevators. They can easily fit in any car thus eliminating the need for a truck or van.

Different sized ladders ready for the painting crew
Note the different size step ladders at this job site.

Painter’s Ladder Safety and Tips

There are some basic safety tips for using ladders that every painter should know. Whether you’re using a step ladder, extension ladder or specialty ladders, these tips are universal. So make sure you read through them carefully before attempting any high reach paint projects!

First of all, painters should read the ladder safety recommendations specified by the ladder manufacturer. The label at the side of the ladder tells you the weight capacity, rating and reachability. Some specialty ladders, like rolling ladders for example, may have their own unique tips and precautions to follow when using them.

Note About Electrical Safety. Do not place your extension ladder close to power lines. Request that your utility provider cover the powerlines with specialized protective gear. When we have to work near the wires, we frequently ask Hydro to shut off the electricity for a few hours. Most clients choose this alternative because of its convenience and the painters’ safety. Please reference the Ministry of Labour website for electrical hazards. 

  • Always wear sturdy shoes when on a ladder.
  • Make sure the painter’s ladder is on level ground
  • Always maintain three points of contact (two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times).
  • Don’t stand on the top steps of any ladder or you may lose your balance. Platform ladders are the exception.
  • Never exceed the weight capacity of the ladder(see product specifications).
  • Make sure the rungs are completely dry before using them to avoid slipping and falling off.
  • Tie the painter’s ladder to a secure point if using an extension ladder, so you can safely move or adjust it without fear of it falling over.
  • Don’t carry a full paint can or too many items at once up a ladder since this may make them top heavy and cause them to fall over. Also maintain three points of contact when doing this.
  • Defective ladders should be taken out of service and discarded.
  • When on a ladder be aware of wasps nests. Wasps are a serious hazard for painters.

The following is the last of a fantastic five-part video series produced by WorkSafe BC. It was produced in 1994 and it’s still relevant today. It emphasizes the key safety measures necessary for ladder usage on construction sites. With simple black and white comedic film footage and computer graphic simulations, it’s very easy to understand and demonstrate safe ladder procedures.

Ladder Safety: Safe Ladder Use (5 of 5)

When you begin your career as a painter, you may not consider the ladder to be an essential tool. However, the fact is that there are many sorts of ladders and they all have unique purposes. It’s critical to understand how they operate and what precautions should be observed when utilizing them in order to minimize the risk of injury.

We hope you found our blog to be informative. We realize that there is a limited amount of information that a blog like this can provide, and it’s critical that you’re safe. There is a lot of safety information on the internet from organizations like those mentioned in this post.

Ladders and scaffold ready for storage after paint job
This church painting project required both the use of ladders as well as scaffolding equipment.

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