• Julie McFaterTraditional Ladders vs. Work Platforms

    In just about every industry, there’s usually a need to carry out maintenance activities at height. These can range anywhere from servicing tanks and hoppers to repairing jet engines – and these jobs can be particularly complicated. Not only can this type of equipment be hazardous if not properly locked out, they’re often also very hard to reach. Straining to reach certain access points of machinery is dangerous from both an ergonomic and working at heights standpoint.

    There are a number of solutions available for maintaining hard-to-reach areas in your facility. The two most popular that come to mind are ladders, and mobile or adjustable work platforms. Let’s take a closer look at both.


    There are obviously pros and cons associated with using ladders during maintenance activities – routine or otherwise. Some of those benefits include:

    • Lightweight: Ladders made from materials like fiberglass are nice and lightweight, which means they’re easy to move around from work space to work space.
    • Long Lifespan: If you invest in a good quality, steel ladder, it has the capacity to withstand a complete lifespan. When compared to other materials, steel ladders have longer durability.
    • Easy to Use: Provided the worker has completed a ladder safety training course.

    On the other hand, ladders have a number of limitations as well, including:

    • Small Steps: Some ladders can have thin steps that workers have to balance on, making slipping a higher risk.
    • No Work Platform: Most have no dedicated work platform for workers to use; all tools and equipment need to be tethered to the body.
    • Height Restrictions: You should never stand higher than the second to the top rung of a ladder, and you have a limited reach on a fixed ladder.
    • No Safety Rails: On a ladder, there are usually no railings or guards to keep you in an enclosed area, making the potential for falls that much higher.

    Now let’s take a look at work platform systems.

    Adjustable Work Platforms

    A number of multi-use, height-adjustable platforms have made their way into the market lately, and they’re gaining traction quickly. Most adjustable work platforms are designed to increase safety and productivity and come in a number of models with different features.

    Some of the advantages of adjustable work platforms include:

    • Versatility: Adjustable work platforms are available in a variety of deck heights, making them ideal for working in very small or very large spaces.
    • Portability: You can easily walk many work platforms from room to room, and even through doorways.
    • Increased Safety: You can be sure that the correct, safe handrail is available at each level of your work platform, and many now feature locking gates for additional security.

    The only downsides to adjustable work platforms are:

    • Size: Since they can’t be broken down, adjustable work platforms can take up a lot of space. Fortunately, since they eliminate the need for scaffolding and some ladders, you should have a lot of extra room to store them!
    • Up-Front Cost: Yes, you will definitely pay a little more up front for an adjustable work platform. However, the long-term cost savings you’ll experience once you invest in one will surely negate that initial price.

    Still not sure which is the best solution for your hard-to-reach areas? Take a look at a work platform in action and decide for yourself! And as always, if you can’t find the solution you’re looking for, get in touch with us! 


    fall protection work platforms working at heights workplace hazards

    Julie McFater | Director of Marketing