Warning after safety tests lead to over 32,000 telescopic ladders being withdrawn from sale.

Enquiries by trading standards teams into the safety of telescopic ladders revealed major concerns.

Telescopic ladders have become increasingly popular in recent years 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 four local authorities. All failed to meet BS EN 131 − the recognised standard for ladder design, safety and structural requirements.

Almost all 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.

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.”

Advise for duty holders

Combination ladders

Following a recent fatal accident investigation, HSE is strongly advising all duty holders and users of combination ladders to ensure that they:

  • carry out pre-use checks;
  • use them in accordance with instructions;
  • check the locking mechanism(s).

Telescopic ladders. 

  • pre-use checks on the ladders are thorough, checking the components and operation of each and every locking mechanism (often one or two per rung) and the associated release mechanism(s);
  • the ladders are stored well, transported carefully and maintained (including cleaning) as dirt and grit etc. can affect locking mechanisms;
  • they understand the limitations and likely performance of their ladder, e.g. strength, bending etc.