If you are in the market for purchasing a new ladder, you may have heard of Bailey ladders. Bailey ladders are generally highly regarded among Australian consumers, particularly for their innovative safety features which are rarely found on generic ladders.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Bailey is a particular shape or design of ladder, but it is actually the name of a brand. This is analogous to other products which are referred to by a brand name, another prominent example of this being how toasted sandwiches are sometimes called by the brand name of the company which first released the toasted sandwich maker.
The Bailey brand manufactures a large range of ladder solutions. Similarly to other companies, they make aluminium ladders, which strikes a balance between tensile strength and ease of portability. They also manufacture fibreglass ladders. Like aluminium, fibreglass is strong and lightweight. While aluminium is arguably the better option for ladders, it is not suitable for all uses. This is because aluminium is a metal, which means that it conducts electricity. Conversely, fibreglass acts as an insulator. For this reason, electricians opt for fibreglass ladders to eliminate the risk of electric shock from a wayward live wire touching the ladder that they are in direct contact with. The bailey brand makes some of the best aluminium and fibreglass ladders on the market.
As noted above, Bailey ladders are prized for their safety features. These include a unique bracing solution reducing the likelihood of the ladder collapsing when it is in use, and a specially made tread which reduces the chance of slippage. Movement of the ladder when it is in use is the main risk of using ladders, as injuries from falling off a ladder can be severe, and even fatal in some cases.
You may have wondered why aluminium ladders are regarded as superior to other alternatives such as wood.
Firstly, let’s think about how ladders are used. Ladders are essentially portable stairs, which a person may alight to reach objects at a height that they could not achieve unaided. Each step provides more height, so a person may climb to anything from approximately thirty centimetres to over one metre. This makes ladders ideal for reaching light bulbs and smoke alarms, and to assist with indoor decoration. It is desirable that the ladder can be moved; if access to a height was required on a regular basis, a more permanent solution such as stairs should be in place.
The ladder needs to fulfil two needs: it is required to support the weight of a person, and it also must be portable. This means that metals such as steel, which is quite dense and therefore heavy for an object the size of a ladder, are not suitable to be used in making a ladder. Aluminium is chosen as a material because it strikes a balance between these two needs. As a lightweight metal, it can be picked up and moved with relative ease; the main problem is actually how cumbersome the ladder is rather than how heavy. This is because aluminium is not dense compared to other metals, that is, there is more empty space between each particle. Despite being fairly light, aluminium is also quite strong. It is used thinly to make aluminium cans which can be easily deformed, but when a thick piece of aluminium is used, it becomes difficult to deform and break the metal. Aluminium is often used in combination with other metals to ensure a strong structure that remains at a small mass.
It is more than mere custom, ladders are made from aluminium because it provides strength while being lightweight enough for portability.