If you're shopping around for a step ladder, one word you're likely to come across over and over again is 'swingback'. But what exactly does that word mean? What makes swingback ladders different from other step ladders? And what does that mean for your purchasing decision?
The short answer
A swingback step ladder is one that doesn't feature a work platform for the user to stand on (as opposed to a platform step ladder, so called because it does have a built-in platform).
Swingback steps vs platform steps
If you're having trouble picturing the difference between a swingback ladder and a platform ladder, here's a visual comparison for you:
Swingback step ladder (left) vs platform step ladder (right)
Note that the ladder on the right terminates in a platform with a sizeable gap above it, whereas the swingback ladder has steps all the way up to the top.
Interestingly, both of the products pictured above may be said to have eight treads. Remember the following rules when purchasing a step ladder:
- SWINGBACK LADDER - Number of treads includes the very top of the ladder. You should not stand on any of the top 3 treads.
- PLATFORM LADDER - Number of treads includes the integrated platform. You can stand on this platform while working.
How to use a swingback ladder safely
What a lot of people don't realise when buying a step ladder is that the top few rungs aren't for standing on.
The Health & Safety Executive's ladder safety guidelines (Safe Use of Ladders & Step Ladders) include the following rule:
"Don't stand and work on the top three steps (including the step that forms the very top of the step ladder)."
Many individuals ignore this rule, but they do so at the risk of their personal safety. The topmost treads of a swingback step ladder are for holding onto with your hands - you should never stand so high on the ladder that you can't grip it.
Be sure to bear all of this in mind when you're trying to decide what type of step ladder to buy! A swingback step ladder will generally cost less than a platform ladder with the same number of treads, but you won't be able to reach the same height and there may be situations for which a platform ladder is more suitable.
Swingback Step Ladders Platform Step Ladders