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First female chair of the Ladder Association

15 December 2020

2020 HASN'T brought great news at all for many of us, and sometimes it’s difficult to think positive after the year everyone has had. With this in mind we thought it’d be a perfect time to share some success stories and achievements. One of which is the managing director of Ladderstore, Gail Hounslea.

After Starting her business in 2004 it’s gone from strength to strength and even though the lockdown period has hit the business in a number of ways, in April 2020 she became the first female chair of the Ladder Association since its introduction in 1947. 

The Ladder Association is a collective of manufacturers, suppliers, training organisations and more, setting the standard for safety when working at height. We managed to get 5 minutes with Gail Hounslea on her success. 

How did you get into the industry and when did you join the Ladder Association?

I started a company, Ladderstore, in 2004 to sell ladders and access equipment and have been working hard in that industry since. We work closely with all the major manufacturers of access equipment thereby giving our customers a choice of what is the best piece of equipment for their task. Ladderstore have been members of the Ladder Association for about 9 years and I was nominated onto the Ladder Association Council in 2015 and have enjoyed working with manufacturers, distributors and training companies to try and eradicate accidents whilst working at height. Everyone has the right to go to work and come back safely and we have been working with companies and individuals to make sure that they have the correct piece of equipment for the job and that they know how to use it safely.

How do you feel about becoming the first female chair of the Ladder Association?

I feel honoured to become the first female Chair of the Ladder Association since it was formed in 1947 and it is interesting to see how the Ladder Association has become more progressed over the last 5 years that I have been involved. There are no other female members of the Executive or the Council, but as I am in the world of ladders and access equipment it has mainly been a man’s world, so i am used to being the only female.

How did the handover take place?

Usually there is an official in-person handover to the incoming Chair at the spring Ladder Conference. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, the planned conference in March this year was postponed and so the handover instead took place 'virtually' over Zoom.

Moving forward over lockdown 

Meetings are normally held quarterly at one of the members offices but obviously that has changed this year. We are having all our meetings virtually at the moment which has benefits and disadvantages. The benefits include the fact that you don’t have to travel which takes up a lot of time as members are dotted all over the country. We have quite a few members in South Wales which always means 2 days out of the office for me so to not having to travel is a big benefit. 

The disadvantages are that when visiting a manufacturing member you can catch up with what changes have occurred since that last visit and also it is great to be able to sit down over lunch and catch up with all the members present and get a great picture of what is going on in the industry.

I think moving forward most meetings will be virtual with at least one face to face meeting annually.

What are your objectives as Ladder Association chair and what does the future hold? 

The Ladder Association is working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Working at Height to improve the safety environment for the 10 million people in the UK who work at height. The  LA and the AAPG are looking to expand enhanced reporting and introduce reporting on near misses. Although this has been quiet during the pandemic it will be even more important in a Post Covid world.

The new Test and Research Centre that is a joint project between the Ladder Association and PASMA is now open and working with government bodies to test imports of working at height equipment coming into the country that may not be up to the correct standards. Also they will be working with the manufacturers to test ladders and steps to the latest standards and have just invested in some automated fatigue ladder testing equipment as product failure can lead to serious injury.

As you can see becoming first female chair of the Ladder Association has been a huge achievement for Gail and she is ready to continue to increase the safety of ladders and people working at height. For any further information on enquiries don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ladderstore on 01204 590 232 or the Ladder Association on 0345 260 1048.