Ladders – the pros and cons of different materials

Fixed or portable, ladders are an essential tool in many work environments.

Used properly, they aid access, allow work to be carried out at height, and boost safety. But getting ladders wrong can result in a nasty accident – or even death.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2022/23 alone, 40 fatalities were recorded – making falls from a height the biggest workplace killer.

A sobering statistic. If ever there was a reason to invest in high-quality ladders, surely this is it, but how do you make sure you get things right?

The best place to start is with the material your ladders are made from.

To help ensure you make the right choice, we’ve compiled a quick guide to the pros and cons of the four most popular options on the market.

Wooden Ladders

Tried and tested, wooden ladders have been around for years and are a trusted, traditional option.


– Cheap – ladders crafted from wood are one of the most affordable options available.  

– Non-conductive – wooden ladders won’t conduct electricity.


– Slippery – the surface of wood quickly becomes slick and slippery when wet, which can make the rungs and frame dangerous, increasing the risk of a fall.

– Requires maintenance – as with all things wooden, timber ladders will require constant maintenance to ensure they remain safe to use. Rot and splintering are just some of the issues that can pose a problem. 

Fire hazard – wood is well known for being combustible, meaning that using wooden ladders carries additional risk.

Steel ladders

A strong material, steel ladders have been relied on for many years, but are more suited to warehouse and indoor environments.


– Industrial – the overriding advantage of steel ladders is their strength, which makes them ideal for heavy-duty use.


– Heavy – the strength of this material comes with a compromise – weight! Ladders made from steel are innately heavy. 

– Conductor – steel ladders will conduct both heat and electricity.

– Corrodes easily – steel corrodes quickly and over time this will degrade the strength and safety of your ladders. If used outside, they would need to be galvanised or painted.

Aluminium Ladders

Comparable to steel ladders in many respects, aluminium is a more modern choice when it comes to metal ladders.


– Affordable – readily available, aluminium ladders are a comparatively cheap option.

– Lightweight – as one of the lightest metals, aluminium ladders are up to 80% lighter than steel options.

– Strong – aluminium is incredibly strong, providing a sturdy, hardwearing option.

– Resistant to corrosion – another advantage to aluminium is its natural resistance to corrosion, as it won’t rot or deteriorate even in damp environments.


– Slippery when wet – aluminium may offer great defences against damp or wet environments, but the metal will still become slippery underfoot when wet, meaning extra care must be taken.

– Conductor – aluminium is a conductor of heat and electricity, making ladders constructed from this metal unsuitable for many environments due to the extra risk they carry.

GRP ladders

Ladders made from GRP – glass reinforced plastic – are the newest material on the market and offer several key advantages.


– Non-conductive – GRP ladders don’t conduct heat or electricity, a huge safety boon.

– Resistant to corrosion – extremely waterproof and hardy to a wide pH range, GRP ladders will perform at their peak in all environments.

– Lightweight – GRP ladders are light and easy to lift and manoeuvre when required.  

– Strong and durable – GRP ladders boast excellent strength and load-bearing capabilities.

– Slip-resistant – even when wet, GRP ladders retain grip underfoot thanks to a clever ribbed edge and built-in silicon grit.  


Not as light as aluminium – GRP is favoured for being lightweight, but rung-for-rung, they typically weigh in heavier than aluminium ladders.

– More expensive – not the cheapest ladder material on the market, but this needs to be considered against the fact that GRP ladders require little in the way of maintenance, helping to keep ongoing costs down.

Invest in GRP ladders

Want to discuss the benefits of ladders made from GRP in more detail? Then talk to the team here at HR Kiln.

We offer an extensive range of products carefully manufactured from glass reinforced plastic, including ladders that are ideal for all manner of industrial environments.

To find out more, view GRP ladders online, or contact the team on 01695 557 711 or by emailing  

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