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© Copyright 2009 Work-4 Projects Ltd.
Up, Up and Away...
A look at some of the best new ways to reach up high in construction

By Jon Eakes

Given that we have neither wings like birds nor tails like monkeys, humans are amongst the least physically suited animals to reach heights — a Darwinian dictum supported by workplace accident statistics. Ladders and scaffolds are essential to our business, but we tend to take them for granted and all too often install them less than securely simply because we move them so often or we are in a hurry.

Levelling Devices
The proper support and levelling of both scaffolds and ladders is essential. There are a number of add-on products available that are designed to adjust the length of one or both legs of the ladder to obtain a perfect vertical. Unfortunately, most of these devices work in less-than-perfect one-inch increments and can be a bit cumbersome to adjust.
Years ago, I discovered a fantastic leveller that attaches to the bottom of any ladder and instantly gives a perfect vertical adjustment. As is the way with many things that I discover, it disappeared and people who see my ladder now are jealous.
This spring, Basemate will release the Easy Connect, a redesigned version of my leveller. Like its predecessor, the new model quickly clips onto any ladder, without holes or bolts. The magic of this device is in its curved base. To use it, hold the ladder in a vertical position with all the weight on the one foot that is on the high side and step on one of the adjustment clamp releases. The curved bar slides around until both feet are solid on the ground. Remove your foot and lean the ladder up to the wall. That’s it, that’s all: perfectly vertical every time. This is not a lightweight gadget, but a solid product capable of standing up to commercial job site use. Occasionally I come across products that I think should be required on every job site. This is one of them.
Information: www.BaseMate.ca
Distribution: www.Task-Tools.com

Walk Through
The top of the ladder is another hazard area: either it barely extends over the roof line and you bend way down as you step on and off the roof, or you put it up high and then have to dance around the top of it. If you do use your ladders primarily for getting on and off of roof tops, you will want to extend your existing ladders with the Safe-T Ladder™ Extension System.
Even if you just lean them on the wall, these extensions can give you a few inches more reach than your current ladder gives by providing a stabilizing hand-hold above the ladder itself. In fact, it will prevent your workmen from climbing up beyond the safe position at the top of the ladder by simply extending that safe position without extending the ladder footing.
The Safe-T Ladder™ Extension System is made by Guardian, a company known for worksite fall protection systems.
Information: www.GuardianFall.com

Stand-off Brackets
There are many stand-off brackets on the market, but the Spider ranks way above the rest, thanks to its versatility. It was originally developed to protect rain gutters, but its adjustability allows for leaning ladders safely up against building corners, locking onto poles and generally protecting siding and windows. The spider-like arms are cushioned and adjustable. It is worth a visit to their Web site to see just how versatile this stand-off can be.
Information: www.GutterProtector.net

Telescopic Ladders
These collapsible ladders are sturdier than you might think. The proof is that they have become standard equipment for fire fighters. The main draw is their portability, as they will collapse down small enough to fit into the trunk of a car — making them ideal for estimators and inspectors who don’t drive a truck with a ladder rack. They are slightly more flexible, but not more dangerous, than fixed structure or regular extension ladders.
Telescopic ladders now come in both ladder and A-frame configurations as well as many different lengths duty ratings, and you can get levelling feet for them as accessories. Be aware, though, that, foot for foot they will be heavier than regular ladders.
Telesteps: www.TeleSteps.net
MetalTech: available at Home Depot and Rona

Scaffolding is a subject so vast that there are entire organizations dedicated simply to training in safe scaffold erection and use. Whether you are responsible for a large crew or occasional scaffold use, I recommend a visit to the scaffolding e-tool created by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
This site is far more than a dry safety standards site. It has great slide shows specific for every type of scaffold use, showing real-life hazards, disasters and possible solutions. It also provides explanations as to why the safety regulations are what they are, plus basic information on how to do it right.
OSHA e-tool: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/scaffolding/index.html

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