Are your new ladders dangerous?

Are your new ladders dangerous?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Last year I purchased a set of telescopic ladders from a well known online marketplace. The idea was that candidates on my ladder use and inspection courses could use them. When I opened the box, I was initially surprised at how little they weighed. But as they’re only 2.6 metres in length I thought it might just be a “feature” of the ladders. Sadly it soon became apparent that the ladders that I’d bought were in fact absolute rubbish and definitely dangerous ladders.

Buyer beware

I gave the ladders an asset number and put them through an initial formal inspection, which they failed miserably. Missing safety labels, excessive twisting, strange joints in the stiles (vertical parts of a ladder). But perhaps worst of all is the scary levels of flexion in the stiles when it’s placed against a wall. All these things made for a perfect example of a bad set of ladders!

They’re now used simply to show candidates what a bad set of ladders look like!

Trading Standards

The sad fact is that these dangerous ladders, and many like them, are still being sold in the UK. In February, Suffolk County Council Trading Standards intercepted a batch of suspicious looking ladders. This was part of a spot check at the port of Felixstowe; UK’s largest container port, handling over 4 million containers every year.

These ladders are the hinged type that can be used either as free-standing step ladders or as leaning ladders. Although they had some of the correct safety labels on them, they were missing others. This, along with tactile checks raised the suspicions of the inspectors. One set of ladders were then sent to The Test & Research Centre for further formal inspection and testing.

Here you can read their full report, but here’s the video they made showing just how bad the ladders are:

My thoughts

Sadly, the world is still full of people who will try to sell shoddy goods to make a quick buck, including dangerous ladders. If you think about it, if you’re up a set of ladders, they are your safety equipment. You’d expect them to meet or exceed the relevant safety standards. However, after months of lockdown and furlough, many are finding money tight at the moment. So it’s understandable that that many will choose a non-brand name product over an expensive named brand.

Ultimately it’s a case of buyer beware. But there are a few things that you can do to ensure you don’t buy ladders like these.


Firstly, look for the labels. The label below identifies whether a new ladder is suitable (i.e. passes tests) for commercial use, or just domestic use.

EN131 Professional & Non-Professional use ladder sign
EN131 Professional & Non-Professional use ladder sign


Secondly, make sure you only buy from reputable suppliers that you know or can physically visit. Always check them for damage before you part with your cash & definitely do this if you’re buying second hand. You’re looking for

  • dents that are bigger or thicker than a 20p piece,
  • wobbly bits that shouldn’t be wobbly, or have become too wobbly,
  • sliding bits that no-longer slide,
  • rusty bits, missing bits, damaged bits, torn webbing,
  • missing or excessively worn feet (bottom) or end caps (top),
  • missing sections of extension ladders (Ladders that were originally a set of extension ladders should never be split up and sold separately.)
  • & anything else that makes you think; are these dangerous ladders?

And don’t forget that if you’re buying new ladders for use at/for work, they should have the EN131 Professional sticker on the side of them (see above). This standard has been around since 2018, so you shouldn’t be able to buy anything else now. Note that some manufacturers still market their products as being “Class 1”, as this is technically a higher standard in terms of load capacity.

Formal Inspections

Thirdly, if you’re not happy with them, reject them. This goes for the ones that you’re looking at buying as well as the ones you’ve been given to use.

This is especially the case at work, because by Law, all workplace ladders have to undergo initial and regular subsequent formal inspections. These then lead to written condition reports & a visual marker on the side of the ladders.

Typical examples of a ladder tag & where/how it's installed.

These visual markers are known as ladder tags and they should be updated each time the ladder is inspected. They’re there so that you can see before you start to climb the ladder, that it’s been inspected recently & that it’s safe for you to climb.

The inspections should be done;

  • every 3 months (recommended) for everyday use,
  • every 6 months as a maximum for everyday or light use,
  • every 12 months as a maximum period between inspections, irrespective of levels of use.

Whomever it is that does these inspections, they should be competent to do them (i.e. “having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully“). In essence, they should have received training on how to do ladder inspections.

I run these training courses, and having been an advanced industrial climber during by 20 years in the construction & surveying industries, I’m naturally rather passionate about ensuring that ladder are fit for purpose before people climb them. So if you’d like to get trained on how to undertake these inspections, fill in the form below and let’s get your training started.

Chris Garland. Founder and lead instructor at Chris Garland Training.
Chris Garland. Founder and lead instructor at Chris Garland Training.

Are your new ladders dangerous?

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