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Buyers Guide

Here in the UK, ladders and step ladders are manufactured in three grades or classifications according to their strength and durability. All three grades fall within the scope of BS 2037, the British standard for aluminium ladders, and bare the British standard Kitemark. They are produced and classified according to the type of work they will be used for.

Class 3 Domestic Ladders

Produced purely for the DIY home maintenance market, these are the lightest and weakest ladders you can buy and are intended for very occasional use at home and are not allowed to be used in the workplace. Using them in a commercial or work enviroment contravenes Health & Safety regulations. Insurance companies often state that using domestic ladders or steps for commercial work will invalidate claims for personal injury. They have a duty rating of 95kg or 15 stones. These ladders are produced from very thin aluminium and designed to be light weight and economical.

EN131 Trade Ladders

This classification is produced from a stonger guage of aluminium to withstand everyday usage by a tradesman or regular home user. EN131 is the European wide standard for aluminium ladders and this classification represents the most popular grade of aluminium ladders currently available. They have a maximum load rating of 150kg or 23.5 stones and are suitable for use at home or in the workplace.

Class 1 Industrial Ladders

The heaviest ladders are known as Class 1 and represent the finest quality and strength that money can buy. Usually reserved for heavy industrial work, Class 1 ladders and steps are designed and built for heavy site work or industrial applications. They are available in a much larger range of sizes than the other two classifications as well as with the option of rope operation. Suitable for use everywhere; home, workplace, factory or building site, they have a maximum load rating of 175kg or 27.5 stones.

Work At Height Regulations

The new Work At Height Regulations (WAHR) became law in April 2005. Possibly the most important message you should understand is that the WAHR have not been introduced to make your life more difficult, or to prevent honest tradesmen from working.

Many myths and misconceptions are circulating about the regulations that have absolutely no foundation in fact. People are worried that they need special qualifications and have to pass complicated examinations before they can undertake any kind of work off the ground. Some people have even got the idea that they can no longer use ladders. This is, of course nonsense. There are, however, some simple procedures that need to be followed to comply with the regulations.

What is Work at Height?

Work at Height is defined as any work in any place from which a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. This includes getting to and from a place at height, working at, above, or below ground. The regulations do not include permanent stairways or slips or trips on the same level.

What are the main requirements of the Work at Height Regulations?

Organisation and Planning of work from the start of the project, including the selection of safe work equipment. Competence of ALL concerned at ALL stages of planning, supervising and carrying out work at height.

Selection of safe work equipment.

Account for: conditions where the equipment will be used, travel distance for access to or egress from a place of height, distance and consequences of a potential fall, duration and frequency of use, and evacuation and rescue procedures.

Is my work covered by these Regulations?

These regulations cover all sectors of Industry, including construction, agriculture, manufacturing, retail, maintenance, warehouse and shopfitting.

Do these regulations affect me?

Employers, employees, the self-employed and those in control of people at work such as contractors, are all affected by the introduction of these regulations.

What is a Risk Assessment?

A Risk Assessment is a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

What is meant by a competent person?

A competent person is generally defined as someone who has the right level of, experience, knowledge and appropriate qualifications that enable them to identify the risks arising from a situation and the measures needed to be taken to prevent harm.

What is the Hierarchy?

Avoid the Risk – Don't go there. Bring the work to ground level. Use alternative means of reaching the height, for example, use poles for window cleaning.

Prevent the Fall – Use collective fall prevention such as guardrails or barriers where protection is provided to more than one person.

Mitigate the Consequences – Reduce the distance a person might fall. Use netting or soft landing systems. Use fall prevention/arrest equipment.

How do I select safe work equipment for working at height?

From your Risk Assessment determine the safest and most appropriate equipment for the task. Consider working conditions, access/egress and duration/frequency of use. Use fibreglass (GRP) towers, ladders and steps for electrical work. Exercise good working practices.

Which type of access product should I use?

To determine the best and safest type of product to use there are a number of factors to take into account.

HSE Overview - Falls From Height

In 2003/2004 67 people died and nearly 4,000 suffered a serious injury as a result of a fall from height in the workplace. Falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injury and the second most common cause of major injury to employees, accounting for around 15% of all such injuries. All industry sectors are exposed to the risks presented by this hazard although the level of incidence varies considerably.

As a result, falls from height are a key priority in the Health and Safety Commission Injury Reduction Programme. The objective is to reduce injury rates by 10% by 2010 against a 1999/00 baseline.

Experience shows that falls from height usually occur as a result of poor management control rather than because of equipment failure.

Common factors include: The Key Messages are: