Our tester Dr Rob Kay puts the ladders through their paces.

Our tester Dr Rob Kay puts the ladders through their paces.

Safety tests

We put the ladders through 6 safety tests based on the standard for portable ladders AS/NZS 1892.1:1996. This standard isn’t compulsory, but we think it should be. Ladder malfunctions can lead to serious injury and we think consumers should have the reassurance that all ladders on sale meet a mandatory safety standard.

First we applied vertical loads to the ladder steps and then added various side forces, to measure stability and how much the ladders “walked” as they swayed side-to-side. The standard states the maximum "walk" allowed.

Next we placed vertical loads as stated in the standard on to the treads, to see whether these loads would bend the stiles and treads or shear the tread-to-stile joints. Finally we did a second “walking” test to see if these tests had weakened the ladder.

These are tough tests. But the standard has been around for many years, so manufacturers have had plenty of time to design ladders that comply with it. Only 1 ladder did comply – we don’t think that's acceptable.

The only ladder to pass all the safety tests was the Warrior Double-sided Aluminium Ladder. However, it doesn’t have a grab rail – which we think is an important safety feature. So we can’t recommend it but we think it's worth considering … along with the Indalex and the 3 best ladders with a grab rail: the Gorilla 3 Step + Tray, the Warrior 3 Step and the Bailey Step Right, 3 Step.

Ease of use

We assessed how easy the ladders were to fold and unfold. Most were fine, although there were some problems with the latch not working on the BOB 3 Step and not always engaging on the Gorilla 3 Step and Tray. And we found the latch of the Geelong 3 Step was stiff, so that folding the ladder took significant effort.

We also assessed how secure the ladders felt when we were standing on them. A ladder that had no grab rail or swayed from side to side got a lower score. The worst in this respect was the BOB 3 Step: its steps felt extremely wobbly. We also felt some sway on the Geelong 3 Step, Super Works 3 Step, Syneco 2 Step, and Warrior 3 Step.

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