Beware of dangerous ladders for sale online - Grand Designs Magazine

Beware of dangerous ladders for sale online

A new campaign warns that dangerous, sub-standard ladders are widely available for sale online

By Mary Richards |

Whether you’re building your own home, refurbishing, or just doing routine maintenance, everyone needs a ladder. But the Step Up campaign points out that many of the ladders available online in the UK are poorly made or even downright dangerous.

This latest phase of the campaign being run by the Ladder Association draws attention to problems with substandard multipurpose ladders being sold to unsuspecting UK consumers. But campaigners previously identified similar problems with telescopic ladders as this video graphically demonstrates.

70% of ladders failed the tests

Campaigners ordered the top ten ladders found using the search term multipurpose ladder. These were bought anonymously from physical stores or online for home delivery, and included the top three products listed on Amazon and eBay. Seventy per cent of these ladders failed the relevant safety tests and were, therefore, in most cases, unsafe to use.

New rules needed

Peter Bennett, Executive Director of the Ladder Association, said, “Working at height can be risky enough, without the additional danger of shoddy ladders – every 11 minutes in the UK, someone attends A&E after sustaining an injury involving a ladder.

“We are aware of below-standard ladders being sold to unsuspecting consumers, particularly via online platforms, which pass the sole responsibility for product safety to the seller. But, if the seller does not care and has no threat of legal consequence due to being virtually anonymous and based overseas, our current legal framework is allowing people’s lives to be put at risk.

He continued: ‘There are good quality and safe ladders available online and in physical stores – not all multipurpose ladders are unsafe. But we are calling for the government to make regulatory changes to hold online platforms accountable for ensuring the products they sell are compliant and safe to use.’

Ladder buying guide

The Ladder Association is an industry body that aims to promote the safer use of ladders. It offers the following advice when buying a ladder.

  • Research before you buy. Check the company/brand to see their business location and visibility in the market. If they don’t have a UK/EU address, it can be much harder to contact them if you have an issue after you buy.
  • Read product reviews. But beware, some companies and brands post fake positive reviews, so note where the reviewers are based and how many other reviews they have posted.
  • Don’t make decisions solely on price. If something is very cheap, question why. It’s not bound to be poor quality, but it’s certainly a prompt to do a bit more homework. Genuine quality products cost more to manufacture because of enhanced testing and cost of materials.
  • Remember online platforms take little or no responsibility for the quality or safety of the products they sell. They place the responsibility for safety firmly with the seller. So don’t assume product safety and compliance checks have been carried out by them.
  • Equally, don’t assume physical stores sell only safe products. They could also, either knowingly or unwittingly, be stocking products that don’t meet standards. Check labels for print quality or spelling errors. Check the product quality as best you can. And speak to the retailer themselves if you have any questions.
  • Avoid ladders that are CE or UKCA marked. Ladders cannot officially gain a CE or UKCA mark, so avoid any that bear that marking.
  • Check products are certified by a third-party conformity assessment body. You can always contact as assessment body (such as Test & Research Centre, TÜV, or BSI) to verify the authenticity of tests.
  • Buy from a Ladder Association member. Members only make or sell ladders that comply with current safety standards.
  • When you receive a ladder you have ordered online, check it. Check the ladder, the instruction manual and the labelling.

Find out more

You can read the full report here. The campaign comes in the context of broader concern about the safety of items sold online. Campaign groups like Electrical Safety First have, for example, issued warnings about dangerous electrical goods  on sale online.

The Ladder Association provides lots more information about ladder safety on its website. And it encourages anyone who thinks they have bought a substandard, unsafe ladder to report it to them here.