Flexible Ladders

Flexible sided ladders
  • Flexible ladders must always be used with a safety back up and rescue system in place
  • A skilled technique must be developed to climb flexible ladders safely
  • Fibrelight ladders nor wire ladders are to be used as PPE (personal, protective, equipment)
  • Flexible ladders are not a suitable means of emergency escape

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How to rig a flexible ladder

Flexible ladders predominantly use a single point of attachment form above which provides a balanced anchor point.

Flexible ladders can be rigged to an anchor with the use of a Y-shaped spreader, or wire anchor strop around a steel girder for example. Compact flexible ladders can also be provided with a swagged eye at the top to provide an attachment point to clip directly to a suitable anchor without requiring a spreader or wire belay.

Fibrelight ladders come supplied with a mallion so that they can be fitted directly to a single anchor point. For example, the eye of a halyard on a boats mast can be used to rig a ladder.

You must consider the following when choosing a suitable anchor for your ladder:

  • If someone is injured or becomes unconscious on the ladder, do you have an appropriate rescue system available?
  • Is the anchor positioned in a high enough position to allow the user to climb on to the ladder before going above danger?
  • Does the anchor provide the adequate factor of safety?
  • Is the wire ladder hanging free from obstructions?
  • Is there a suitable back up system in place?
  • Are all of the connecting elements in the ladder rigging and back up system correctly orientated and locked?

Some thoughts to consider before lowering your ladder for use:

  • Is the ladder in good condition, free from excessive damage and wear?
  • Will your ladder be long enough to reach the bottom in one drop or will you need to join several ladders?
  • When lowering your flexible ladder ensure that you do not simply allow the ladder to un-roll itself. Lower each rung of the ladder one at a time checking for snags or obstructions.
  • Finally check it has actually reached the ground

 Belaying the climber to provide a temporary back up

The belay must be set on independent anchors to the ladder itself. A suitable auto locking belay device must be used, clear signals must always be confirmed before climbing commences. The climber must be belayed by someone who is competent in belay techniques.

The belayer should consider the following:

  • Does the climber posess the necisary skills to climb the ladder competently?
  • Is the distance to be climbed within the climbers physical capability, wire ladder climbing can be tiring.
  • Has the rescue plan been practised and agreed upon, with all items present and ready for use?

A popular method of protection for the climber is to use a mobile fall arrest device such as the Petzl ASAP proper training for the use of this device is essential. This method does not eliminate the requirement for rescue procedures.

How to climb a flexible ladder

Below are some tips to help you climb your flexible sided ladder, practise makes perfect!

  • Keep your body weight as close to the ladder as possible
  • Have your knees protruding out around the sides of the ladder
  • While ascending the ladder, try to keep your hands no higher than your face.
  • Climb your ladder with your arms around the back of the ladder with your palms facing toward you.

If a ladder must be rigged low, you will likely have to slide over an edge. You must be connected to a back up system at all times, be careful not to trap your fingers behind rungs or wire side pieces. This can be painful and dangerous. This situation can usually be avoided by ensuring proper rigging of the ladder.

In some instances it is unavoidable to have a ladder running against a solid surface. Climbing the ladder in this situation can be made easier by turning the ladder so that the side of your body is closest to the surface as you climb. This avoids trapping your fingers between the surface and the ladder.

You may wish to consider adding a small amount of tension to the bottom of the ladder, this will make the ladder easier to climb, especially over longer distances.

A common mistake when climbing a flexible ladder is to wear boots with lace 'hooks', these are notorious of getting caught up in the ladder.

How our flexible sided ladders are constructed

The rungs of our wire ladders are hollow with a dowel insert. The rungs of the ladder are secured in place using pins and resin. The pin is driven through the rope or wire into the dowel inside te rung. This is then set in resin forming a solid block inside the rung. A plastic cap is fitted to seal the end of the rung. When constructing our anodized ladders all the cuts and holes must be made before the anodizing process, this ensures complete coverage of the metal.

Additional wire ladder information:

The breaking load given for a rung is tested as follows; Breaking load of rung = Load at which a rung bends loaded with 18mm tape over the centre of the rung.

All of our wire ladders use one of the following wires:

  • 7 x 9 = Nine wires make one strand, seven of these are twisted together to form a rope.
  • 7 x 7 = Seven wires make one strand, seven of these are twisted together to form a rope.

Notes on Fibrelight ladders

All flexible ladders have a limited serviceable lifetime, including corrosion resistant wire ladders. The life time of a ladder can be as short as one use should it have been subject to excessive wear e.g. ladder rung overloaded, excessive abrasion suffered. Fibrelight ladders are likely to require replacement more regularly than conventional wire ladders. A Fibrelight ladders can be stored for a maximum of three years before their first use, this only applies to ladders stored correctly in a cool, dark, dry place. As per the manufacturers recommendation.

Below, a guide to the life span you may be able to expect from a Fibrelight ladder. Please bear in mind this does depend upon the weight of the user , the frequency of use and does not include excessive wear.

  • Daily use: Up to three months
  • Weekly use: Up to six months
  • Occasional use: No more than five years

Important note: Fibrelight ladders are produced using polyester webbing. This webbing has a melting temperature of 245°c but its strength is severely effected far before the webbing has reached this temperature. This makes textile ladders hazardous to use where they may come become in contact with hot pipes, machinery and such.

Fibrelight ladders are designed to only be suitable for use by persons who are below 120kg or 18.9 stone.

Why purchase a Fibrelight ladder over a wire ladder?

  • Simple sing point rigging
  • Compact design with carry bag included
  • Light weight - 10m ladder weighs only 2.35kg
  • Fibrelight ladders are silent, ideal for tactical or theatrical use
  • Not susceptible to corrosion, although remember that webbing can degrade at different rates over time depending upon the environment.

Thank you for taking the time to read our flexible ladders information page. If you have any questions regarding our ladders, their safe use, storage, rescue systems or any bespoke requirements you would like to discuss please contact us.