My ultimate ambition for T&RGETMARK is for it to

become a household name for access products


Some products might look sturdy, but fail spectacularly when tested. TALL TALES

The Test & Research Centre tests and certifies ladders, steps and platforms, and aims to ensure the conformity in UK manufacture. Andy travelled to Cambridgeshire to find out more.


here’s a lot to be said for companies who boldly name themselves after the

services they provide. In that regard, the Test & Research Centre of Soham, Cambs, sums itself up neatly, in that it tests, researches and even certificates ladders, podiums, mobile scaffold towers and other non-powered access equipment. If the name suggests a scientific or academic approach to their work, that’s entirely deliberate.

The facility itself occupies an appropriately lofty unit on the outskirts of the town, where I met with General Manager John Darby. He is something of a veteran in the access industry, with time served at Youngman, Werner, PASMA – where he was Head of Technical Support – and the Ladder Association. He also sits on more standards committees than we have the space to mention, and he undertakes the majority of the testing and research services offered.

To call him a specialist might be an understatement, then. So, let’s start with a bit of history – how did the Test & Research Centre come into being?

“The idea for the centre came from PASMA and the Ladder Association, as their purpose is to reduce accidents involving ladders and towers. They put the money into buying this building and renovating it. They provided the initial capital, and we finally opened in January 2020,” he begins. “One of the things they’re both keen on is raising the awareness of substandard products – it’s all too easy to buy equipment online that hasn’t touched a warehouse or a responsible distributor, and certainly hasn’t been tested

for safety or certified to any degree.

“Bodies such as Trading Standards used to undertake such work, but they have to cover too much ground with too few staff at the moment. A key justification for starting the Test & Research Centre was to help with that. Fundamentally, we’re about making access products and their users safer. The whole point of this was to be a friendlier, more reliable and fully independent service.”

Much of the centre’s work involves testing the equipment of known manufacturers, although it’s the substandard products that tend to make the headlines. Is this a widespread issue, or does it mainly affect imported goods?

Test & Research Centre GM, John Darby

“It’d be wrong to say that imported goods are not all made to rigorous guidelines. However, manufacturers in the UK all know the current standards – BS EN 131 for all types of portable ladders, BS 8620 for podiums and BS EN 1004 for mobile access towers – and they’re all working towards that,” explains John.

22 Executive Hire News - August 2021

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