Triple ladder stretch

Three ladders tied together to reach up a pole

At first glance this set up looked dodgy – two ladders lashed together to allow someone to reach high up a pole. But looking closer, it’s even worse than that! Three ladders tied together to make the reach.

So, what’s the problem?

The ladders just aren’t made for this. They are made for holding a certain amount of weight, basically, a fat bloke (and then some for safety) with the ladder upright or at an angle relatively close to upright. Now, there is a big safety margin in a modern ladder, they are really well made. But, this will put an enormous amount of stress on the bottom ladder.

Where the three ladders are tied together

Plus, ladders like this are not made for joining together. The bottom ladder is an extending one, it is already at full reach and the top part is held securely on the bottom part by hooks designed in to the ladder. Not so the top two ladders.

The top two are being held together with rope. This means the ladders are offset from each other, so the balance of the load down the whole ladders isn’t running straight down in a way that they’re designed for, and if you’re up this mess you’re at the mercy of however good your knots and rope are.

Even if you have confidence in the ropes, you are putting a lot of confidence in that bottom ladder. It is already at its full extension – the max it is designed for. You’re then adding on the extra weight of two ladders, and the person climbing up to the top of them. All pressing on one small part of the bottom ladder where the bottom circle is in the picture above.

All you need is for the weight of the two ladders and worker (that’s probably you, how big a breakfast did you have this morning?) to go a little above what that point of that ladder will take, and it can start bending. Once it starts bending, the whole lot will start to shift, straining the bottom ladder more, but also the ropes holding the ladders together and them to the pole. How much will it take to make you drop off the side of the ladder at the top? I don’t want to find out.

What should you be doing?

Your better options are:

  • A longer ladder (may not be available for this sort of height)
  • Scaffolding (stable, but takes time to put up)
  • Hire a cherrypicker / boom lift

Personally I would go with the cherrypicker option. You could drive up, lift up to the top of the pole with your tools, do your work in comfort (well, as comfortable as you can be up there) and come down easily whenever you need to.

You might think it’s a lot of hassle to hire a machine rather than use what’s at hand, but it’s a lot less hassle for your family than organising your funeral after your luck runs out.


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