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Ladders and stepladders

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We tested a range of ladders and stepladders.

A ladder is an essential item for many household tasks - and a well-designed small stepladder will keep you safe by providing a grab rail and a stable platform to stand on.

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From our test

About our tests

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.

We applied vertical loads to the ladder steps and then added various side forces.
We applied vertical loads to the ladder steps and then added various side forces.

We put the ladders and stepladders through a series of 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.

First we applied vertical loads to the 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 ladders and stepladders.

These are tough tests. But the standard has been around for many years, so manufacturers have had plenty of time to design products that comply with it.

Ladder test results

We recommend 5 models from our test of 9 ladders.

The Ox OXSE06 and Bailey FS13432 - 2 of the strongest performers in our tests.
The Ox OXSE06 and Bailey FS13432 - 2 of the strongest performers in our tests.

The strongest ladders overall were the:

The Indalex, Gorilla and The Warehouse ladders “struggled” to meet some of the individual tests – and this reduced their overall stability/strength ratings.

We also tested the feet of the front and rear legs for friction and grip against the floor. The Ox OXSE06 was significantly better than the others – it gave a secure grip.

Ease of use

Folding and unfolding
The Ox OXSE06 had the most useful setup, with a tray located between the spreaders for holding tools or paint containers.

The Alco, Bailey, The Warehouse and Warrior all had a spreader bar on each side of the ladder, making them relatively easy to fit and release.

The Rhino and Gorilla had cross-braced spreaders. The Gorilla spreaders worked well, but those of the Rhino were slightly out of alignment and hit the inside of the rear leg. We also had to file one of its spreader slots to make it wider, so that it would fit the locating lug.

The Indalex's X-shaped cross-brace worked well enough in our test.

Opening out straight
All the ladders used latches to secure the ladder in the opened-out-straight position. The catches of the Alco, The Warehouse and the Warrior worked well without problems.

But not all worked well. One catch on the Rhino required a judicious hammer blow before it disengaged. The Bailey, Indalex, Ox and Rhino all had stiff-to-operate catches. The catches on the Gorilla appeared to have been bent in transit and had to be reshaped to make them work.

Secure-feeling
We also assessed how secure the ladders felt while standing on the fourth step and shifting our weight about. The Bailey, Ox and Warrior felt the most secure. We felt least secure on the Rhino and The Warehouse.

Stepladder test results

The Warrior Double-sided Aluminium Ladder was the only stepladder to pass all our safety tests.
The Warrior Double-sided Aluminium Ladder was the only stepladder to pass all our safety tests.

Only 1 stepladder passed all our safety tests.

The Warrior Double-sided Aluminium Ladder was the only stepladder to pass all our safety tests. 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 stepladders with a grab rail. These are the:

Ease of use

We assessed how easy the stepladders 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 + 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 stepladders felt when we were standing on them. A stepladder 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.

Ladder safety

Here are some safety points to consider when using a ladder or stepladder.

  • Check your ladder before using it. Never use a ladder with missing, broken or loose parts – it’s just not worth the risk.
  • When you’re setting up a ladder, make sure it’s on a firm and even surface. It’s even better to secure the base of the ladder.
  • Always keep 3 points of contact when climbing a ladder (for example: both feet and a hand). Never over-reach sideways.
  • Ladders are not designed as working platforms. For big jobs such as painting walls, look at using scaffolding … or hire a professional.
  • Chairs are for sitting on, not standing on. You need to reach up high? Use a stepladder.
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