A: Absolutely, fiberglass is the best construction material for a ladder because it’s inherently non-conductive.
When it comes to safety in the workplace, there are many risk factors at play no matter the environment.
Whether it be a chemical plant, water treatment plant, refinery, or any other industrial facility you have many of the same hazards including:
- Dangerous irritants and corrosives
- Toxic substances
- Fall risks
- Electrical shock
Out of all workplace safety risks, one of the most common accidents involves electrical shock. Often, this is due to faulty infrastructure that is made of conductive materials being exposed to electric current. Structures such as metal catwalks, platforms, and especially metal ladders.
It’s one of the reasons we advocate so strongly for FRP structures within the industrial workplace. We’ve seen stories on the news time and time again of someone either losing their life or being badly burned due to an electrical accident.
Sadly, in most cases, hindsight proves that there were plenty of ways to avoid the accident in the first place. This is why it’s so important to put a heavy focus on electrical safety in your company’s safety protocols.
What is Electrical Safety?
Electrical safety is a broad term that encompasses best practices for workers that are exposed to electrical equipment and tools. It’s essentially a curated list of guidelines and procedures that are adhered to so that you can mitigate these hazards.
These guidelines are essential to not only prevent an incident but also to get in the general mindset of safe practices. When workers forget to follow electrical safety standards, the odds of an incident resulting in injuries or even fatalities skyrocket.
The Important Role FRP Ladders Can Play
Working around electricity can be just as safe in the workplace as it is in your average home. However, it relies on workers being vigilant about safety precautions and sticking to protocols.
Lack of training, experience, and the failure to identify hazards and unsafe equipment can result in electric shock that can result in death.
While all industries are at risk from electrical hazards, the construction industry is typically the most vulnerable. Just over 50% of fatalities in the workplace are due to electrical hazards.
Many of these incidents were the result of carrying metal equipment such as aluminum ladders beneath power lines. They accidentally make contact and then you have a tragic incident that could’ve been avoided.
So, how can you protect yourself and your workers against accidents involving metal ladders and electricity?
The answer is surprisingly simple— FRP ladders. Ladders made from FRP, that is— fiber reinforced plastic, do not conduct electricity. Right there, your risk of electrical shock due to ladder contact with electricity is resolved.
However, the benefits of FRP ladders don’t stop there—you have to examine the material they’re made of. FRP is a valuable material used in everything from structural beams to catwalks, and fiberglass platforms are even used in scaffolding.
So, why is FRP such a popular material for industrial workplaces? Well, let’s take a look at some of its many benefits.
Why Businesses Are Choosing FRP
The materials you use for any construction project are critical to its success, durability, and structural integrity. To choose the proper materials for your project you must analyze your project specifications.
There are factors to consider such as environment, use of structure, and financial constraints. Go back about thirty years ago and material selection was fairly limited. Your main structural materials were wood and metal.
However, as materials have advanced, architects and building engineers have turned to these more advanced materials. FRP is one of the largest trends in that shift to more durable materials and the most intriguing.
Composites, also commonly known as fiber-reinforced plastic, or FRP, have grown rapidly in popularity. This is mainly due to their sheer strength despite being so light. FRP is just as strong as steel, yet at a fraction of the weight while also being corrosion-resistant and having a lower cost of ownership.
Fiberglass products such as FRP ladders consist of a protective resin that’s fortified with high-strength glass fibers that provide outstanding durability. This results in a composite that is useful in a wide variety of construction applications.
When compared to wood, FRP blows it out of the water as it’s impervious to water both fresh and salt. This makes it an optimal choice for bridges, pedestrian walkways, and just about any structure. It holds up to a high level of wear and tear without compromising safety and structural integrity.
But, where FRP shines is when it’s compared to metals such as aluminum and steel. The reason it is so phenomenal is that while metals are strong, they can also be heavy. Yet, FRP products deliver the same strength at a fraction of steel’s weight for example. Of course, it has a lot more advantages over metals than that.
Key Advantages Of FRP Over Metal
We can tell you that FRP is superior to steel and aluminum, but you need hard facts before upgrading your infrastructure. Let’s take a look at the comparisons between FRP and metals such as steel and aluminum.
FRP Vs. Steel
Strength – Even though FRP is 1/3 the weight of steel it does not lack in strength. In fact, it has a higher impact resistance than steel. This makes it an ideal option for any industrial environment.
Safety – Workplace accidents occur no matter what kind of materials you use. However, if you can mitigate accidents, you try right? Steel can corrode and rust-causing potential accidents on walkable surfaces. FRP doesn’t break down like steel does over time due to corrosion. FRP also has greater flex which gives a soft response to foot traffic, reducing fatigue and back injuries.
Durability – Steel corrodes from just about any corrosive—some faster than others. However, with FRP it lasts upwards of 20 years or more because it doesn’t corrode at all and can be used in corrosive environments. It’s also incredibly impact-resistant compared to steel which can dent with acute impact.
Cost – While steel is a little less expensive upfront, that is not where the costs are at. Steel is expensive to install—it needs heavy equipment, is expensive to transport, and sometimes needs reinforced foundations. Additionally, with the vulnerability of steel to corrosives, it does not last as long as FRP. So, when you factor in the shorter lifespan and less durability—steel may even cost more!
FRP Vs. Aluminum
Strength – Aluminum is not used as much as steel and is often reserved for light load applications. This is because aluminum is guaranteed to fail eventually due to its makeup. Unlike aluminum, FRP has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio. It also has no fatigue limit so it can bear heavy loads every day and still last for at least 20 years or more.
Safety – Aluminum is highly conductive, so in environments with high voltage—that’s a huge risk. Also aluminum has almost no flex so it can cause back problems. Additionally, it’s susceptible to breaking or deformation from severe impacts. FRP has no conductive properties and can take a beating without any decrease in durability.
Durability – Due to its low strength, undefined fatigue limit, and impact vulnerability—aluminum will ultimately fail. Unlike FRP which is not vulnerable to any corrosives, aluminum is vulnerable to certain acids and other corrosives. Aluminum can be severely damaged and warped by even a moderate impact whereas FRP is unaffected.
Cost – Aluminum is low in both cost of materials and its installation so it is truly less expensive in that regard. However, where you lose money in aluminum is in having to replace it often because of its short duty life. Again, FRP lasts at least 20 years or longer even when taking abuse daily, as in the case of FRP ladders.
FRP Ladders, FRP Grating & More From DEFI
The facts don’t lie, FRP is stronger, more durable, safer, and less expensive overall than any other traditional materials. DEFI can even build custom designs for structures such as FRP ladders with cages and more!
Contact us today and let us know what we can build better for you.