Ladders go through numerous safety tests, but these tests have their shortcomings.
The Test Lab
All official testing and certification methodologies, including ANSI, EN-131, CSA, NZ-AUS, and MIL, are performed with motionless, static weights that exert force in only one direction. These tests are performed in a controlled environment with perfect conditions, on flat level ground, with no external factors, usually in a testing lab. Each test is designed to determine the strength of certain areas of the ladder and requires a test load of up to 4 times the rating of the ladder. All Little Giant products meet or exceed these requirements.
Ladders in the Real World
Static force gauges do not have families waiting for them to come home at the end of the day. If people remained perfectly motionless on a ladder, they might be safe but they wouldn’t get much done. Static weights do not make decisions, good or bad. People sometimes take risks or get distracted or startled. Job sites are notorious for uneven, pitted, and unstable ground.
Operators Don’t Follow the Instructions
Understanding these differences, Little Giant has studied the way people actually use their ladders and designed around or against human behavior. It’s human nature to overreach, or to use the closest ladder, even if it’s the wrong kind; or to stand on the top rung or top cap instead of finding a taller stepladder. Even with the best training, we know operators will cut corners to save time and energy.
The Human Body Is Not Static
Ordinary ladders are not designed to keep an operator from falling, but simply to counteract the vertical force of gravity and elevate the operator above the ground. But every move an operator makes exerts forces on the ladder that it is not designed to take. Simple actions like stepping off an extension ladder to a roof or shifting your weight can destabilize an ordinary ladder. Involuntary responses like swatting at a bee or reaching out to catch a falling tool also exert lateral forces that can destabilize a ladder.
For decades ordinary ladder manufacturers have known about the inherent safety risks of their products and done nothing. Isn’t it ironic that basically every piece of heavy equipment you see on a jobsite has outriggers or stabilizers to prevent kinetic forces from destabilizing it. Yet, we send unprotected operators dozens of feet in the air on ordinary ladders that are no wider than they are. Some of the most catastrophic, fatal accidents occur because ordinary ladders have this inherent risk built into their design.
One ladder company actually attempts to profit from these design flaws by marketing fall-arrest equipment to protect operators when they fall from their own inherently unsafe ladders. Little Giant would rather focus on designing ladders that prevent the fall in the first place.