Modified podium steps led to worker’s 2 m fall

A tower crane hire company has been fined after a worker fell two metres when the podium steps he was working on toppled over.

An employee was welding metal components while working at height on a set of podium steps which had been taken from another factory when the accident happened in November 2017. The steps toppled over, causing the worker to fall about two metres to the floor and fracture two vertebrae.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that internal procedures had not been followed, and the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment nor determine a safe system of work.

In addition, the podium steps had been modified with the addition of incorrect feet, contrary to the manufacturers’ instructions. Stabiliser bars had not been fitted and workers had not been trained in their correct use.

At Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, London Tower Crane Hire & Sales pleaded guilty to breaching reg 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations. It was fined £54,000 and ordered to pay costs £1,544 in costs.

HSE inspector Parmjit Gahir said the wholly avoidable incident was 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,” Gahir added. “Podium steps are a recognised safe solution for working at height however, if they are used incorrectly, they can become a danger themselves.”