Do you have any electrical work and looking for the perfect ladder for the job. Or perhaps you have a fiberglass ladder and wondering if it is safe for electrical work? Do fiberglass ladders conduct electricity?
The answer is no! Fiberglass ladders do not conduct electricity. That’s why they are the safest ladders to work around wires and electrical lines. Fiberglass is an insulator that does not conduct electricity. Thus making it the best choice for electrical works.
Different materials are conventionally used when manufacturing ladders. These are wood, aluminum, fiberglass. While other materials can be used, these are the standard ones.
Each material imparts certain properties to the ladder that makes it suitable for use in specific circumstances.
For example, a wooden ladder is often preferred for electrical work. An aluminum ladder is more common for non-electrical housework because it is durable and lightweight.
Last but definitely not least is fiberglass. Fiberglass or fiberglass reinforced plastic ladders commonly sport fiberglass side rails with aluminum rungs.
This combines the durability of aluminum ladders and the non-conductivity of wooden ladders, making it perfect for professional as well as personal electrical work. The only downside of fiberglass ladders is the cost, which is the highest among all of these.
Do Fiberglass Ladders Conduct Electricity
One of the reasons people prefer fiberglass ladders is its non-conductive property.
The reason for this is simple. Electricity is conducted only when it finds a complete or closed circuit to pass through. The metal rungs of the fiberglass ladder do not form a closed circuit. They are individual rails that are held by the non-conductive fiberglass. Thus, there is no fear of electric shocks from the metal parts itself.
However, what most people do not know is that the non-conductive property of fiberglass ladders can get negated in two situations. The first is due to the accumulation of dirt. When the ladder has been exposed to ultraviolet radiation long enough, the resin polymer bonds start getting oxidized.
This might even be aggravated by strong heat, high humidity, and exposure to chemicals. If the external coating and the polymer gets eroded too much, it can result in a phenomenon called fiber bloom. This happens when the glass fibers get exposed to the atmosphere.
This can result in the accumulation of dirt in the crevices thus formed. The dirt will invariably contain ionic compounds, which, besides metal, are the other main conductors in nature.
If the dirt forms a continuous “electric track” inside the fiberglass rails and connects the rails or the ground to the rails, it will form a closed circuit if it comes in contact with a live wire.
If the user becomes part of the circuit, they might end up getting electrocuted if they are not taking precautions themselves.
The other scenario rises due to water absorption. While fiberglass is not water-absorbent under normal conditions, exposure of the glass fibers can result in water entering the interior of the fiberglass by “wicking” or capillary action. The presence of water reduces the insulating property of the ladder and can cause electric shocks.
The best way to prevent these situations is to maintain your ladder and repair it promptly in case you notice any damage. There are various electronic tests, including some recommended by ANSI, that you can use to detect the electrical resistance of your ladder.
In the case of fiber blooming and dirt accumulation, you should sand the area, wash the ladder with a suitable solvent, and then apply a primer and appropriate protective coating to prevent further damage.
In the case of water absorption, the ladder should be heated in a circulating heat chamber at 49°C for 4-12 hours to evaporate the water.
Which Ladder is Best For Electrical Work
If we are talking from the precautionary perspective only, the constituent material of the ladder that is best suited for electrical work has to be wood.
Wooden ladders are fully non-conducting. As long as it is dry, there is absolutely no danger of being electrocuted. But from a practical point of view, wooden ladders are too easily and quickly degraded.
This ends up posing greater danger due to accidents from loose or damaged parts than protecting from electrocution.
This is where fiberglass ladders come in. Granted, they are quite expensive and might seem like an unnecessary investment for homeowners who take good care of their ladders and store and use their ladder in neutral environments.
But for professionals or even some homeowners who frequently DIY, a fiberglass ladder is a better choice. If proper safety guidelines are followed regarding usage, storage, repair, and maintenance, no other ladder can replace the fiberglass one in any way.
Safety Tips for Working Around Electricity
There is no alternative to taking safety measures when working with ladders around electricity because one misstep can even cost you your life. It is not the responsibility of just the user to make sure there is the least possible amount of danger in the method of working and the equipment being used. In case of personal use, both the ie user and the person helping him or her must take care to prevent any slack in the safety steps. Having someone with you is definitely a must here. For professional work, the workers and employers must be actively involved in ensuring safety to all. Some of the points that must be followed are:
- Use a non-conducting ladder only. You have every right to refuse to work if a non-conducting ladder is not available.
- Make sure the ladder is in compliance with ANSI guidelines.
- Inspect the ladder well before use to ensure it is dry, clean, and undamaged.
- Do a worksite survey to locate all power lines and note their distances and heights.
- Contact the local utility company for information, guidelines, and assistance for working around power lines.
- Maintain the OSHA-prescribed distance from the lines. This means 10 feet away from power lines with a voltage of up to 50 kV, 20 feet away for lines at up to 350 kV, and 50 feet away for lines with higher voltage.
- When you are setting up or moving a ladder, make sure it is not coming in contact with a power line. Ask for help if needed.
If you detect a downed line nearby, immediately get off the ladder and move as far away as possible. However, if the ground is wet and you do not seem to be in danger atop the ladder, it is better to avoid the ground.
Always wear non-conductive and non-flammable clothing. Your shoes must mandatorily have non-conductive soles.
Make sure the user has the necessary work safety training. They should be well-informed about the hazards involved and the corresponding safety precautions. All involved parties should adhere to safety guidelines and know the necessary first aid in case of an electric shock. Employers should also do their part in creating a safe job site.
So that was an article was about ‘do fiberglass ladders conduct electricity‘.
The truth is, it is impossible to ensure a hundred percent safety when working with ladders in a location with the possibility of electric contact. There will always be that low percentage of risk from unforeseen circumstances arising at any instant.
But we can mitigate the dangers to a large extent if we follow safety rules and only use ladders that meet all the necessary standards. When working around electricity, using a clean, dry fiberglass ladder in perfect, working condition is one of the ways to reduce the risk of electrocution and ensure overall safe working conditions.