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PASMA responds to HSE prosecution following podium fall
A serious accident involving a set of modified podium steps has once again highlighted the importance of proper training and quality equipment for anyone working at height - even at low level. The accident happened when a worker was using the podium while welding metal components.
The podium toppled over, causing the worker to fall approximately two metres to the ground and fracture two vertebrae.
The investigation by the Health & Safety Executive 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 steps safely.
At a recent hearing, London Tower Crane Hire & Sales of 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 (Prefabricated Access Suppliers and Manufacturers' Association) 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.
"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."
PASMA's 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 folding step units and folding tower units. PASMA-Approved Training Centres can provide more information.
PASMA urges anyone affected by a fall from height to get in touch with No Falls Foundation for support.
T: 0345 230 4041
W: www.pasma.co.uk or (option 2)
13th February 2020