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THE verdict is in. According to the many delegates who attended, the recent 2019 Ladder Association’s Annual Members’ Meeting and Conference was an exceptionally interesting, informative and enjoyable event for both members and non-members alike. 94 per cent of respondees to a follow-up survey rated the event ’very good’ or ’excellent’. 

Annual Members’ Meeting

Held at Hogarths Stone Manor Hotel, Kidderminster, the day began with the formalities of the AMM at which the Chairman of the Association, Paul Bruton, reported on another successful year for the Association which saw the number of LadderCards issued in 2018 up by 27 per cent compared with the previous year.

He went on to report on the implementation of the revised EN 131 European product standard for portable ladders, the contribution of the Association to the recently published inquiry report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Working at Height, the success of the on-going ‘Get a Grip on Ladder Safety’ campaign and the latest news on the Test and Research Centre.

The AMM also heard from Don Aers representing the Technical Committee, Steve Booker for the Training Committee and Jason Carlton, Head of Engagement, who reported on the work of the Association with organisations such as the Access Industry Forum (AIF), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), and the Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards. 

Conference

The conference itself began with a joint presentation by the Ladder Association’s Technical Manager, Don Aers, and HSE Inspector and Policy Advisor, Alex Farnhill. It delivered the clear message that anyone wanting to purchase new ladders, or needing to replace existing ladders because they were damaged or unfit for future use, should only buy ladders to the revised EN 131 European product standard. The transition period from the old to the revised standard was now over.

This was followed by Chris Debrick of Transport for London’s Major Projects Directorate who explained TfL’s innovative and highly successful campaign designed to keep workers safe during the modernisation of The Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines – referred to as the 4 Lines Modernisation (4LM). In a fascinating and highly interactive presentation, Chris described TfL’s ‘Ladder Logic’ campaign focusing on the safe use of ladders and stepladders using the analogy of sky diving!

Next, on behalf of British Marine, James Scott-Anderson reported on the challenges faced by the Association in developing a code of practice for such a diverse and unique sector. “Shipyards and boats operate in a truly unique environment,” explained James, who illustrated his point with a series of ladder and stepladder images drawn from across the UK. However, working in collaboration with the HSE, he was optimistic that real progress was being made.

After a session highlighting innovation and funding for research and development by Oliver Ivey of Leyton UK, the morning ended with an absorbing insight into the work of the Office for Product Safety and Standards, part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Assistant Director, Gordon Maddan, explained the work and role of the department in ‘making regulation work’. In particular, Gordon highlighted the importance of PAS 7100, the recently introduced Code of Practice designed to help businesses plan in advance to deal with any potential product safety issue that might arise.

The afternoon began with the national launch of the joint Ladder Association and RoSPA campaign ‘Get a grip on ladder safety’ featuring Abbi Taylor whose father, Jason Anker, was paralysed after a fall from height when she was aged just three. In conversation with Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s OHS Policy Advisor, Abbi movingly explained her motivation for making the campaign video which tells how her life has been profoundly affected by the accident.

This was followed by the Ladder Association’s Executive Director, Peter Bennett, who took the opportunity to explain the contribution of the Association to the inquiry report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Working at Height – ‘Staying Alive’ published in Westminster in February 2019. Peter explained the four main recommendations of the report, together with the two topics proposed for further consultation. The APPG seeks to understand the root causes of falls from height and propose effective, practical measures to reduce them.

For the No Falls Foundation, Hannah Williams brought delegates up-to-date with the aims and objectives of the charity, and the way in which it is seeking to raise awareness and understanding of the risks associated with working at height, undertake research into the causes, and provide support for those people suffering the consequences of a fall. The Ladder Association is an active supporter and benefactor of the Foundation.

Finally, George Lopez delivered a presentation on the important updates to the Ladder & Stepladder User and Inspection Course. Both training courses have been substantially updated and modernised following an extensive review and will be the subject of a ’soft launch’ on 1 May 2019. Improvements include the innovative use of animations and video, cleaner slide design and new practical section guidance.

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