Is This The Most Dangerous Ladder In The UK?

Bendy ladders

The Test & Research Centre has helped block another shipment of dangerous ladders from hitting UK shelves in a joint operation with Trading Standards.

Test & Research Centre, the not-for-profit testing facility for work at height equipment, has seen its fair share of dodgy ladders.. yet when their team was asked to examine a suspicious shipment of ladders intercepted by Trading Standards at the Port of Felixtowe in February 2021, even they were shocked at just how dangerous these products turned out to be.

The ladders were a type of telescopic standing ladder - ones that can be used in standing mode (like a step ladder) or leaning ladder mode (like an extension ladder). They were labelled 'EN 131', implying that they complied with the European standard for ladders.

However, missing contact details, product codes and manufacture dates, plus the presence of an illegal 'CE' mark, raised suspicions with Suffolk County Council Trading Standards.


Within a few days, the ladder was in the test lab at Test & Research Centre undergoing an assessment.

There's a whole range of tests a ladder must pass before it can be labelled 'EN 131', including strength tests, slip tests and cyclic tests of the joints and connections. There are also specific requirements for materials and dimensions. This gives consumers confidence that their ladder meets basic safety standards.

Test & Research Centre was about to prove, they would fail many of the standard's safety-critical tests in spectacular fashion:

  • The base width was too small, making it unstable.

  • The rung spacing was inconsistent, making falls more likely.

  • There was no slip-resistant surface on half the rungs.

  • Mandatory safety markings and information were missing.

  • The rungs could easily be pulled out of the stile - a most worrying finding, as it means the rung could collapse from under the user. One stile cracked during the lightest load testing - a serious structural failure that put a halt to further testing.

  • It bent under pressure, up to four times greater than the limit - you expect a ladder to be rigid and inflexible, but this was the opposite - the most bendy ladder in the country!

100 dangerous ladders were seized for further investigation. With the Test & Research Centre’s help, testing proved that those suspicions were correct and they were right to prevent them from entering the UK.


 “Our Imports Surveillance Team at the Port of Felixstowe is funded by the Office for Product Safety and Standards. Its role is to protect consumers from unsafe and dangerous goods, just like these ladders.”

– Graham Crisp 

Head of Suffolk County Council, Trading Standards



“When you’re shopping online, it is tempting to pick up a deal but if a price looks too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. We encourage people to only make purchases from reputable retailers such as Screwfix a firm that will have checked its products for conformity to standards.”



Would have failed

John Darby, General Manager of Test & Research Centre, said: “These are quite possibly the most dangerous ladders I have ever come across. The poor connections between the rung and stile are the most troubling. I have no doubt that in use these could have failed. And sadly, it’s not a case that only in a ‘certain scenario’ these could have failed – the connection is so poor it’s highly likely to fail during normal use. There were 100 dangerous ladders in that shipment and each of these was a fall from height waiting to happen.”

Gail Hounslea, Chair of the Ladder Association, added:  "The condition of these ladders was truly shocking. Consumers have every right to expect the ladder they're buying to be safe but this case reminds us that unscrupulous suppliers are still trying to sneak dangerous products into unsuspecting UK homes and workplaces. If you're purchasing a ladder, please be vigilant. Source ladders from reputable suppliers who put your safety first - any Ladder Association member is a fantastic place to start - and ask to see proof of certification to BS EN 131."

Picture: Possibly the most dangerous ladders ever have been stopped from coming into the UK.

Article written by Cathryn Ellis
19th March 2021


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