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Written on 29th June 2022 by Kim Milan

A Telescopic Ladder Surveillance Survey by the Ladder Association has identified that unsafe, poor quality and potentially dangerous telescopic ladders are being imported and sold online and in stores within the UK.

The research formed part of the Ladder Association’s ‘Step Up to Safe Ladders’ campaign to raise awareness of the safety risks associated with poor-quality telescopic ladders and by stopping their sale reduce the number of injuries from falls from heights

The findings of the research are highly concerning, revealing that 4 out of 5 of the telescopic ladders that were tested failed the standard safety tests which are designed to keep users safe.

The Ladder Association’s telescopic ladder research

The Ladder Association’s Telescopic Ladder Surveillance Survey was a product surveillance survey of telescopic leaning ladders which are on the market in the UK, including ladders that are sold online or in-store.  The survey was carried out in partnership with the East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and Suffolk Trading Standards Imports Team.

Telescopic leaning ladders have many advantages as a means of working at height. They are lightweight and compact and need less storage space than other leaning ladders but their length can be extended by lifting ‘rung sections’ of the ladder and then using the locking mechanism to hold them in place. Each section can be extended until the ladder reaches the length and working height that is required for the task. 

According to the Ladder Association, all telescopic leaning ladders should be manufactured to comply with British Standard BS EN 131-6. However, the Ladder Association are concerned that the telescopic ladders that are on the market in the UK are all imported and are often far below acceptable safety requirements. Trading Standards have no power to take enforcement action against sellers from outside the UK. Importers are required by law to put only safe products on the market but the Ladder Association believes many importers are ignoring these responsibilities and misleading consumers, with a complete disregard for product and consumer safety.

During the surveillance survey, 17 telescopic ladders were obtained anonymously from various sources, including shops, online stores, marketplaces, and detention by Trading Standards at ports whilst being imported into the country. The researchers said that many of the ladders were marketed in a way that suggested they complied with BS EN 131-6, whether in the product and sales information or on a label on the product.  

The ladders were subjected to a series of safety critical tests taken from the BS EN 131-6 standard at the Test & Research Centre, a specialist testing facility. A selection of specific tests were used which, if failed, could lead to complete failure of the ladder and the user being injured by falling from a height.

What did the Ladder Association’s Telescopic Ladder Surveillance Survey find?

The research revealed that 80% of the telescopic ladders which were tested in the survey failed to meet the minimum safety standards that are designed to keep ladder users safe. Many also had design features which made them incompatible with the requirements of the standard. This included ladders that are on sale from well-known UK retailers and which claimed to be compliant with safety standards, such as CE marks. The Ladder Association says it is important to note that ladders cannot legally be CE marked as there are no EU directives or regulations for any type of ladder.  By implication, any suggestion that the ladders comply with CE marks are therefore designed to deliberately mislead consumers.

Key test findings included:

  • Only three of the tested ladders fully passed all of the tests which were carried out and conformed to BS EN 131-6. 
  • 13 ladders failed the strength test, with 11 buckling under load.
  • 12 ladders failed to have the required 35mm top rung clearance.
  • 11 ladders failed the strength test before the test load could be applied, meaning that the ladder could buckle under the user, causing them to fall from height. 
  • 10 ladders failed the pull out test of rungs, with complete separation of the rung bracket from the rung, fixing rivets shearing or brackets rupturing.
  • 10 ladders failed the preconditioning test, with damage seen in the locking mechanism, locking indicators, stiles and rung brackets.
  • Nine ladders were incorrectly constructed, so that the rung sections could be stored in any position.
  • Nine ladders failed the lateral deflection test with excessive deformation under load.
  • Eight ladders had an insufficient base width.
  • Eight ladders did not have a safe unlocking/closing mechanism.
  • Seven ladders had incorrect rung pitch or inconsistent rung spacing.
  • Five ladders failed the rung strength test in the unlocked position, either collapsing before the load could be applied or with damage which made the ladder unfit for safe use.

Following the findings of the Telescopic Ladder Surveillance Survey, the Ladder Association has called for increased consumer, media and retailer awareness of substandard telescopic ladders, as well as gathering further intelligence about the telescopic ladders, the UK market and awareness of the difficulties with enforcement to support the work of Trading Standards and OPSS (Office for Product Safety and Standards). The Ladder Association has also called for changes to product safety regulations.

Claiming compensation for injuries after falls from defective ladders

Falls from ladders whilst working at height are a common cause of severe injury with life-changing effects on the injured person. These accidents can arise from defective ladders, or may be the result of a combination of mistakes and failings which together contribute to the cause of the accident.

Boyes Turner’s personal injury lawyers are highly experienced in recovering compensation for clients after falls from ladders and heights. We investigate the cause of each accident carefully and advise our clients on the best course of action to secure rehabilitation, early financial relief and ultimately recover full compensation from an employer, manufacturer or supplier of a defective product.

If you have been severely injured in a fall whilst working at height and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.