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HSE prosecution after worker fractures vertebrae in fall from podium steps

We were concerned to learn of a serious accident involving a set of modified podium steps that has once again highlighted the importance of proper training and quality equipment. The worker was using the podium whilst welding when it toppled over, causing them to fall approximately two metres to the ground and fracture two vertebrae. The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that - contrary to the manufacturers' instructions - incorrect feet had been added to the podium and it had not been fitted with stabiliser bars. Not only had the company failed to carry out a risk assessment or determine a safe system of work, but workers had not been trained to use the podium safely. The accident happened in November 2017. At a recent hearing, London Tower Crane Hire & Sales Limited of Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. This law places a duty on employers to take 'suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, as far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury'. For not doing so, the company was fined £54,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,544. We know that thousands of people fall from height every year and this accident is sadly just one example. It's a reminder of how serious the consequences can be when the safety of workers isn't the top priority, even when they're working at relatively low levels. Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector, Parmjit Gahir, said: "This was a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to adequately plan its work, and put basic safeguards in place. The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance in order to select and correctly assemble access equipment, along with implementing the necessary training, instruction and supervision to prevent such falls occurring. Podium steps are a recognised safe solution for working at height however, if they are used incorrectly, they can become a danger themselves." As the only organisation dedicated to advancing safety for users of podium steps, PASMA is well-placed to advise employers on their safe usage. Commenting on this accident, PASMA's Chairman and Managing Director of Euro Towers, Roger Verallo, said "This accident emphasises the fact that you don't need to be very far off the ground to be seriously injured by a fall. As the HSE inspector noted, podiums are a safe way to work at height - but of course, only when they're used properly by trained persons. Always choose podiums that are certified to design standard BS 8620, follow the instruction manual carefully and please, send your workers on the PASMA Low Level Access training course. Accidents like this don't need to happen." Our Low Level Access course trains people on the safe use of access equipment where the working platform is under 2.5m of height, such as podiums and folding tower units. Contact one of our Approved Training Centres for more information. No Falls Foundation is a charity dedicated to supporting people who've been affected by the consequences of a fall. If you find yourself in this situation, please consider getting in touch with them.