Unsafe ladders being sold online, experts warn

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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Unsafe and potentially dangerous ladders are being sold online, experts have warned, following a study which found 70% failed to meet minimum safety requirements.

The Ladder Association (TLA) raised serious concerns after the research they commissioned showed every sample they tested from Amazon and eBay failed the safety tests, were non-compliant and were unsafe to use.

Every commercially-available multipurpose ladder that failed was advertised as ‘compliant’ with the product standard – EN 131-4 – either on the product listing, product packaging or product labelling.

Peter Bennett OBE, Executive Director of the Ladder Association, said: “Making sure consumers are safe is our number one priority and we are committed to raising awareness of potentially harmful ladders.

“Working at height can be risky enough, without the additional danger of shoddy ladders… A fall from height can cause life changing injury, and in some cases, can even be fatal.

“We are aware of below-standard ladders being sold to unsuspecting consumers, particularly via online platforms, who pass the sole responsibility for product safety to the seller.”

The research is part of TLA’s ongoing ‘Step Up to Safe Ladders’ campaign, raising awareness about ladder safety. Every 11 minutes in the UK, they claim, someone attends A&E for an injury they sustained from a ladder. 

TLA also found identical substandard products are being sold with different product names, seller names and branding.

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In UK law, online marketplaces selling third-party seller products have no responsibility for preventing unsafe goods being sold on their platforms, and no legal obligation to inform consumers if they have purchased unsafe goods.

While Trading Standards can investigate and take appropriate enforcement action against UK-based businesses, those operating outside the UK do not exist in current product safety law.

TLA said this means sellers are virtually anonymous, making it almost impossible to hold them to account, and it gives rogue manufacturers, suppliers and sellers based anywhere in the world, free rein to sell unsafe products direct to unsuspecting consumers in the UK without threat of repercussion.

Peter Bennett added: “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. This must stop.

“We must stress there are good quality and safe ladders available online and in physical stores – not all multipurpose ladders are unsafe.

“However, with increasing price pressure and the ‘Amazon effect’ on consumers and businesses, which puts price and convenience above safety, the market is far from a level playing field.

“The Ladder Association is again calling for urgent action from the UK Government to make regulatory changes to hold online platforms accountable for ensuring the products they sell are compliant and safe to use.

“We’re also urging people to take extra care when buying ladders online – do your research; read the reviews and when you get it, check the ladder itself, along with all instruction manuals and labels. And if you think the ladder is unsafe or dangerous don’t use it.”

In this research the sample products were tested at the UKAS-accredited independent Test & Research Centre in Soham.

For information on how to safely use ladders at work, visit BrAInbox today where you can find answers to questions like What checks should I make before using a ladder?

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