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Post Info TOPIC: Fiberglass versus Aluminum Ladders


SoftWash Systems Pro Staff

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Fiberglass versus Aluminum Ladders
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Just curious on what other roof cleaners are using out there.  I have all fiberglass ladders except for a little giant we use but 40 foot fiberglass ladders are HEAVY and would love to switch to a lighter aluminum version but we have electrical lines everywhere here in the northeast (hence all of our power outages) and just feel its not worth the risk. Anyone with an opinion on the matter?

 

AC, a ladder and general safety module I think would make a great addition to you're training modules.  I would also think more of a dialogue on how to mitigate the safety risks (using equipment and technology and/or best practices) in our industry would be a real value add and hopefully prevent unsafe practices which might also help avoid unnecessary tragedy and not to mention possible OSHA fines and insurance claims.



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I have both the fiberglass and the aluminum ladders, and we too have alot of power wires in our area. the fiberglass ladder is just so heavy compared to the others that it hardly ever gets used. As with any ladder we are just very careful when setting them up and moving them around. The risk of a back injury to my employees because of the fiberglass ladder weight scares me more than the overhead wires. Just my thought

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Dan Dykstra

Roof Cleaner. 

Hudsonville, MI 

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I can't imaging wrestling a 40' fiberglass ladder, you guys must be ripped

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John Smith

Indiana Soft Wash

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I have been handling fiberglass ladders for over 25 years, my biggest regret is not using the lighter aluminum ladders all those years. My body feels it now at 40. If anything, switch out the fiberglass 40' with aluminum.

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SoftWash Systems Pro Staff

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I also have been handling ladders for over 25 years all sizes. They have always been fiberglass until I started roof cleaning I was told the SH will break down the fiberglass and it’s a better choice to go aluminum. As for electrical lines we always carry a 6' X 6' piece of 0.60 mil EPDM (rubber) it can be laid over wires where the service enters the house reducing the chance of "spark gap". However getting the epdm in place can be difficult. In our area if you have a project and you give enough advance notice they (power co) will come out and "cover" the service with a protective jacket to reduce the risk. Bottom line CAUTION and Attention to your surrounding can greatly reduce the risk of shock with aluminum ladders, avoid that area. On a side note SH is highly conductive as well you do not want to get it on the service wires. Ray Burke can tell yall a story about that... There is always risk associated with each job and a little preparation can go a long way. I went with aluminum ladders for roof cleaning; the idea of the fiberglass failing at a wrung was too much for me. A 7' fall put me on crutches for 26 months 8 years ago, not doing that again!The weight of aluminum is a BONUS too!



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SoftWash Systems Pro Staff

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If it was just me I would be more willing to go the aluminum route. When all it takes is one mistake for one of my employees to get seriously injured or killed I just can't justify the risk and liability.  I agree with everyone's point and might concede on some commercial jobs for the 40 footer only.  Appreciate everyone's opinions.  Be Safe!



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American Safe Wash

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Old Saybrook, CT 06475

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Mike,

We always used aluminum.

1. Cheaper
2. Lighter
3. Bleach eats fiberglass
4. Aluminum can be cleaned and brightened with chems
5. Fill the first 4 ladder rung outside holes with foam to stop the ladder from singing going down the road.

AC


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I use fiberglass, 32fter and a 16. I carry a 24 aluminum also. Power lines are 50/50 some areas we service have them, some don't. Its a tough call, I think having employees properly ladder trained is very important.

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SoftWash Systems Certified Applicator

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We use mostly aluminum ladders, although we use fiberglass stepladders. They seem sturdier than aluminum stepladders, except for little giants which are awesome.

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Mike,

YES I will do a ladder safety module for the CEUs for certification.

AC

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AC

"Fill the first 4 ladder rung outside holes with foam to stop the ladder from singing going down the road. is a great tip" I look forward to not hearing that tune anymore

As far as ladder safety, I have taught myself and my ground guys to walk the job and take notice of all the issues. One major consideration for us during the walk around is to note overhead electric. There are online web courses for ladder safety that will at least give your employees or us for that matter, helpful tips and reminders that may very well save a life.

We use aluminum. Once I got used to the 'bent look' of a long ladder when I got up to the top and looked back down the ladder, I was ok.

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Ok, Mike, and all,

I can tell you, as a firefighter who handles ladders in the worst of conditions (and I'm sure Schall will reiterate this), if you do not watch what you are doing with a ladder and hit one of these feed lines, it won't matter what the ladder is made of, you are, at a minimum, going to get your dick knocked in the dirt!!

As Danny said, proper TRAINING of both you and your crew is essential for optimal safety.  Train your guys to include wire locations in their "360 walk-around" as they "size-up" each job.  Have that crew member be absolutely sure to inform the other members of the wire locations too, both power, phone, and cable.

Job site safety training AND situational awareness are key.  If you stress the former, the latter will always be present.  Always revert back to your training, "WE FIGHT LIKE WE TRAIN" is one of the mantras of the fire service.

A ladder made of fiberglass vs. aluminum is NOT going to save you if you run it into a power line!!  And throwing a piece of EPDM (rubber) over live power lines is a recipe for disaster - asking to be seriously disabled if not killed.  I do not think ANY power company linesman worth his salt would advocate that practice!

Being involved in the fire service since 1987 I have been up close and personal with the affects and horror of electricution injuries/deaths.  The power involved is incredible and not to be trifled with.  Y'all do what you like, but remember, "If you're going to be stupid, you've GOT to be tough".

DITCH your heavy fiberglass ladders and work smarter, not harder.  Training & awareness are the key.  Wrestling those heavy ladders are only going to increase the risk of back injuries and wear you and your men out prematurely and unnecessarily.

Did I mention trainingbiggrin

 



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I worked a job in Pine Bluff. Ark years ago at a papermill for a main head replacement. A worker fell 5' off of an 8' step ladder, and died. We all get complacent doing the same thing day in and day out. There is no replacement for safety. As business owners it is up to us to make sure ourselves, as well as our employees go home the same way they came in, 10 and 10. Just when you think " oh, I'll be ok, this is faster" you can fall off of a 8' step ladder and die. Be safe guys, even if it means not squeezing in that extra roof at the end of your day.

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SoftWash Systems Pro Staff

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Mark appreciate your post. Situational awareness is a great point.  Although I agree with your point about working smarter, not harder I still have a concern about spraying water from a metal ladder where that water could be coming into contact with the power line.  My concern is the electrical jump and although I recognize that the fiberglass ladder is not going to save you with direct contact, I was wondering if it will reduce the possibility of that electrical jump if you use fiberglass??

I found a great FREE ladder safety training website (AmericanLadderInstitute.org) that gives you free access to their training videos as well as the ability to test and record your employees scores which is great for basic training and CYA. It still doesn't cover the "how to" of ladders but as far as do's and don'ts this training is great and I will be having all of my employees take this test and include this as part of my safety training and meetings in addition to the how to's.

John...We are not ripped just sore and tired.  Powerful story about the Pine Bluff incident.  It's true about complacency being probably one of the biggest dangers. That American Ladder Institute training had a special training video for step ladders in additional to extension, mobile and articulating ladders.  Thanks!   



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Hi Mike,

When we have arcing wires but still need to protect the property they're endangering, we use very short bursts of water. In other words, the slug of water is no longer in contact with our nozzle by the time that water slug hits the area near an arcing line. Risky, but effective. You just don't want to "complete" the circuit with a continuous slug of water. ESPECIALLY if it has salt in it!!

Once the current makes it's way to your ladder, even if it's fiberglass, if you're flowing enough water to complete the circuit, you've got to figure there's enough water sheeting built-up on your fiberglass ladder rails to carry the current to ground anyway.

As long as you place your ladders away from the electrical service lines you should be fine. Just tell your guys not to spray the house connection directly and if they need to spray near it to use very short bursts so they don't close the circuit.

Honestly, there is greater danger in contacting the lines directly as you maneuver the ladders around the yard. That is where most of the fire service injuries occur as opposed to water flow causing arcs to the ladder.

The ALI site sounds great! I'm going to check it out for sure.

Mark



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Mark Fermoyle wrote:

Hi Mike,

When we have arcing wires but still need to protect the property they're endangering, we use very short bursts of water. In other words, the slug of water is no longer in contact with our nozzle by the time that water slug hits the area near an arcing line. Risky, but effective. You just don't want to "complete" the circuit with a continuous slug of water. ESPECIALLY if it has salt in it!!

Once the current makes it's way to your ladder, even if it's fiberglass, if you're flowing enough water to complete the circuit, you've got to figure there's enough water sheeting built-up on your fiberglass ladder rails to carry the current to ground anyway.

As long as you place your ladders away from the electrical service lines you should be fine. Just tell your guys not to spray the house connection directly and if they need to spray near it to use very short bursts so they don't close the circuit.

Honestly, there is greater danger in contacting the lines directly as you maneuver the ladders around the yard. That is where most of the fire service injuries occur as opposed to water flow causing arcs to the ladder.

The ALI site sounds great! I'm going to check it out for sure.

Mark


 Right on the money!

AC



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AC Lockyer

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SoftWash Systems Pro Staff

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Mark point taken with the EPDM , It was something I was told by an "experienced" electrician, We are throwing that idea out! I beleive Fire Fighters,  they typically see the negative side of "bad idea jeans" . Im still going to keep the piece of rubber in my truck it has 1000 other uses but the covering of wires is OFF THE LIST. Thanks for your input it may have saved some one (me) a bad experience. Ill stay with letting the experienced guys cover the wires (power company) We always do this when there is a high reach on site so I would imagine it could be done for residential jobs as well. I think in most cases we will just make sure to use caution and do our regular tool box talks.

http://www.safetytoolboxtopics.com/

good site for the construction field

 

Thanks Mark!biggrin



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You bet, Matt. I'll be checking out both the sites you referenced very soon. I think I'm getting Carpal Tunnel from typing out my updated Bio a few minutes ago in my profile. Sheesh.

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R. Mark Fermoyle - Owner 

Let Us Spray Softwash

Richmond, VA

804-363-3686

Col. 3:23

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Mark,
Thanks for all the information you provide to us here on the fourm

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SoftWash Systems Certified Applicator

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That is great info Mark, thank you for sharing that with us.  Being new to this business, there is alot of things I need to learn, but I dont want to learn the hard way in that situation.  Thank you



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SoftWash Systems Authorized Professional

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Mark,

Love your profile. Great job!!!!



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LOL ~ Like my youngest son's favorite joke:

"When I found out my toaster wasn't water proof, I was SHOCKED!!"  biggrin



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R. Mark Fermoyle - Owner 

Let Us Spray Softwash

Richmond, VA

804-363-3686

Col. 3:23

www.LetUsSpraySoftWash.com

Mark@letusspraysoftwash.com

www.facebook.com/letusspray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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John Orrico wrote:

Mark,

Love your profile. Great job!!!!


Thanks John, appreciate it smile



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R. Mark Fermoyle - Owner 

Let Us Spray Softwash

Richmond, VA

804-363-3686

Col. 3:23

www.LetUsSpraySoftWash.com

Mark@letusspraysoftwash.com

www.facebook.com/letusspray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



SoftWash Systems Certified Applicator

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Great info thanks guys.

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Zach Maynard - A to Z SoftWash

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Great information guys,
but I think that for the employer to be covered in the event of an accident employees would need to have been trained by a certified trainer. Just my penny's worth

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