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What is a Step Ladder?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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A step ladder is a portable ladder designed with a supporting frame which stabilizes the ladder while it is in use. Step ladders come in a range of sizes, from small two or three step ladders designed to give people a little leg up to much taller ladders which can be used to access high locations like the roof. Many hardware and home improvement stores carry step ladders and can order special models by request if customers cannot find a ladder to suit their needs in the store.

The design of a step ladder includes a hinged supporting frame which is designed to fold flat when the ladder is not in use to make it easy to transport, and a series of steps on one side of the frame. The ladder may have a platform at the top which can be used to hold tools and supplies, and smaller step ladders often have a handle which projects from the top. When used properly, the design is very stable.

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It is important to make sure that a step ladder is used safely. The four legs of the ladder need to be placed on an even surface, and the ladder must be fully folded out, with the supporting struts across the middle of the frame folded out flat. Most ladders are designed to hold the weight of a single person, and people using the ladder should be centered on the steps, where their weight will be most evenly supported. They should also avoid climbing so high that they cannot easily touch the ladder with their hands; if it is necessary to climb that high or to stand on the top step, a taller ladder is needed.

Step ladders are also unstable when they are pulled or pushed in a sideways direction, and repeated pressure in this direction can put strain on the parts of the ladder. It is also important to avoid using step ladders in wet or slippery environments. Fiberglass, wood, plastic, and aluminum step ladder designs are all available, and can be useful in many environments. One thing to check for is whether or not the ladder has rubber feet for traction, which will make it more stable.

Around the house, a step ladder can be very useful for small projects where people cannot quite reach their work space from the floor, like cleaning the tops of cabinets. While some people may be inclined to use chairs for such tasks, chairs are not well suited to this, and a step ladder is much safer. Taller step ladders can be used for everything from pruning trees to rigging theatrical lighting.

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