Our Managing Directors Visit to BSI - Testing New Ladder Standards

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Ladder testing standards for the UK and Europe have changed. Ladderstore managing director Gail Hounslea visited UK business standards body BSI to find out what this means for working at height safely and your business

Last month I was invited to visit UK business standards body BSI in Hemel Hempstead to see how ladders will be tested under the new standards: EN131 Professional and EN131 Non-Professional. I sit on the Ladder Association Council and this new legislation has been talked about at every meeting for about the last five years, so I was very interested to have a look around the BSI testing laboratories. The new standards were adopted on 1st January 2018 and it was really interesting to see a fibreglass step ladder being tested under the new standards. Unfortunately, we were asked not to take photos so I am unable to show you the testing machine.

BS EN131 is the single British and European product standard covering all types of portable ladders (step, extending and combination) and it has been substantially revised. When a European Standard or Euro Norme (EN) has been agreed and ratified all CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) member countries are obliged to adopt that standard as a national standard.

Brexit is unlikely to make a difference to these standards, as the UK is expected to carry on working with the EN standards.

So what does this mean to the end-user?

BS EN131 is the UK version of EN131 and is used by manufacturers who have had their ladders tested in the UK by BSI. All ladders tested to the new standards, EN131 Professional and EN131 Non-Professional, will have the same minimum capacity of 150kg. The only differences between these two standards are the requirements of durability and the number of preconditioning tests. EN131 Professional is subject to a machine hitting the ladder 50,000 times as opposed to only 10,000 for EN131 Non-Professional. The EN131 Professional is intended for use in the workplace and the EN131 Non-Professional is for domestic users only.

There have also been dimensional changes that improve stability, and all extension ladders over 3m now require a stabiliser to the bottom of the ladder which must stay in place during use. There are also increased strength test requirements.

Can you still use your existing ladders?

Yes, product standards do not apply retrospectively, so, if they are in good condition, there is no immediate requirements to change your existing ladders just because the product standards are revised or withdrawn. You will be able to buy ladders to the old standards during the twelve months transitional period as suppliers clear their existing stocks. After this transition period, any ladders you replace or any new ladders you require must conform to the new standards.

If you are buying for a business you should consider updating your purchase policies to be ready to specify EN131 Professional ladders when you have to replace existing ladders or buy new ones.

When buying new or replacement ladders, make sure that you buy from a reputable supplier and ask for confirmation that the ladder meets all the requirements of the latest version of EN131. It is currently NOT possible to legally buy a CE marked ladder so if you see a ladder with a CE mark, stay clear and don’t buy it!

Do you need retraining on the new EN131 ladders?

As you are probably aware Ladderstore are members of the Ladder Association and provide Ladder Association accredited training courses on Safe Use and Inspection of Ladders. It is the best practice that someone within your organisation should be trained on how to inspect both extension and step ladders. This is important as should an accident happen and an investigation is launched, being trained on Safe Use and Inspection proves competency.

I was recently asked if you can use the platform on a platform stepladder and the answer to this question is yes. All EN131 or the old Class 1 step ladders will have had their platforms tested to take the minimum capacity of 150kg for EN131 or 175kg on Class 1. This includes the weight of the user plus any equipment or materials being carried. Please note, however, that with a swingback stepladder you must not use the top three steps.

In summary: The new legislation is now in force so always make sure if you are buying new ladders, they are from a reputable company. If you have any questions or queries or are just unsure about what the standards mean for your business, please drop me an email at gail@ladderstore.com.

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