DIY enthusiasts, tradesmen and gardeners are being warned to check telescopic ladders thoroughly after investigations led to more than 32,000 dangerous sets being withdrawn from sale.
Enquiries by Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards team into the safety of telescopic ladders revealed major concerns and led to a government-funded investigation working alongside Derby City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Northamptonshire County Council.
Telescopic ladders have become increasingly popular because they fold away and can be easily stored. However, their pyramid-style operation can require up to 32 locking mechanisms and just one faulty part can lead to the ladder collapsing.
A total of 13 different telescopic ladder types have been tested by the four authorities. All failed to meet BS EN 131 – the recognised standard for ladder design, safety and structural requirements.
Almost all of the ladders were easily damaged during testing, showing they were not robust enough to cope with normal wear and tear.
In the worst case, a ladder snapped in half beneath the test load – despite claiming to comply with the safety standard.
Derbyshire’s enquiries have resulted in withdrawals from sale and recalls involving over 28,000 ladders, with more than 4,400 being subject to similar action by the other authorities.
Mike Ashworth, strategic director for Economy, Transport and Communities, said: “We began these tests after concerns were raised by a Derbyshire company. The results are absolutely shocking – particularly with firms advertising the ladders as complying with relevant safety standards as this means it is now difficult to advise buyers on what to look for.
“People simply aren’t getting what they are paying for. This is bad enough under any circumstances, but when it is placing them in danger, it simply isn’t acceptable.”
Mr Ashworth added: “At this time of year many people are starting to get out in the garden or do some DIY, perhaps using a ladder they bought a while ago for the first time. We would urge anyone using a telescopic ladder to take even more care than usual and make sure they check each locking mechanism thoroughly before climbing the rungs. If any damage is apparent, however small, we recommend avoiding use.
“Anyone with any doubts should not use the ladder and contact the supplier where it was bought.”
Eleven of the 13 ladders tested were manufactured in China and most were bought on line.
Rai Fashions Ltd of Hereford, the importer of the ladder that snapped in testing, was prosecuted by Derbyshire County Council. The company was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs by Southern Derbyshire Magistrates in November 2016 after admitting selling an unsafe product which did not meet relevant standards.
Import companies based in Derbyshire, Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Essex and Swansea have all withdrawn ladders from sale following the investigations.
Derbyshire County Council is continuing to work with the Ladder Association and the Health and Safety Executive to improve ladder safety in the UK, and has raised its concerns about the safety of telescopic ladders with the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
To report any concerns or for consumer advice contact: Citizens Advice Consumer Centre on 0345 04 05 06, textphone 18001 0345 04 05 06