“Their aim is to prevent people who might otherwise jump down out of the back of the vehicle from suffering accidents and possibly long-term back and knee injuries,” he says. Employees sometimes forget to use safety equipment, but the steps specified by some operators prevent access to the cargo area unless they are folded down first.

Of all-alloy construction and usually weighing from 22kg to 24kg, such steps typically cost around £350 to £400 each and have slip-resistant surfaces. AVS also makes underfloor steps — usually of the cassette type — that can be operated either manually or electrically and are often specified by minibus operators. “Cassette-type steps account for 80 per cent of our volume,” Clarke says.

AVS made almost 8,000 automotive steps last year and will move into a new, £650,000 factory in Whitchurch, Shropshire, in August. Customers include BT, Severn Trent, National Grid and Scottish Ambulance — some of them are fitting steps to both the side and the rear of their vans — and it's an OE supplier to Mercedes-Benz and LDV among others.