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.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use … but failed the “walking” and tread-to-stile tests.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use and is equal-best for feeling secure ... but it failed the “walking” test.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use … but failed the “walking” and tread-to-stile shear tests, and doesn’t have a stated load rating.
Bottom line: This stepladder is OK to use … but it failed the “walking” and tread-to-stile shear tests.
Bottom line: This stepladder was one of the few ladders to pass the “walking” test … but it failed the rearward stability and tread-to-stile shear tests.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use and is one of the few stepladders to pass the “walking test” … but it failed the tread-to-stile shear test.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use and was equal-best for folding and unfolding … but it failed the “walking” and tread-to-stile shear tests.
Bottom line: This stepladder is easy to use and is equal-best for feeling secure … but it failed the tread-to-stile shear test.
Bottom line: This ladder has excellent results for stability and strength, good foot friction and is easy to use.
Bottom line: This ladder has OK results for stability and strength, good foot friction and is OK to use.
Bottom line: This ladder has good results for stability and strength, OK foot friction and is extremely easy to use.
Bottom line: This ladder has excellent results for stability and strength, and good foot friction But it’s somewhat difficult to use.
Bottom line: This stepladder is OK to use and is the only stepladder to pass all our safety tests … but it has no grab rail.
Bottom line: This stepladder is OK to use and its cross-braced spreaders can be operated with one hand … but it failed the “walking” test and has no grab rail.
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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 ladder’s feet “walked” as they swayed side-to-side. The maximum “walk” allowed for portable ladders is 79mm under the safety standard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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