A civilian police worker who had to retire early after injuring his back when he fell down a flight of stairs has been awarded compensation with the support of his trade union, the GMB.

The 61-year-old, from Wakefield in West Yorkshire badly injured his back in the fall at West Yorkshire Police headquarters in Wakefield in November 2008.

The maintenance officer of 13 years was walking down the concrete stairs to the basement when he slipped and fell a full flight, hitting his head against the wall. The stairs had no handrail.

He strained his back, bringing on degenerative changes by two years and forcing him to take eight months off work. Although he returned on light duties, the continued pain prevented him from lifting and he eventually had to give up work.

Thompsons Solicitors instructed to investigate a claim for compensation

He contacted the GMB’s legal service after the accident and the union’s lawyers Thompsons Solicitors was instructed to investigate a claim for compensation.

West Yorkshire Police denied liability and the case was heard at Leeds County Court where the judge ruled the accident had been caused by the absence of a hand rail. He added that the GMB member’s retirement was brought forward by six months as a result of his injuries.

He was awarded £17,000 in compensation.

He said: “I was watching my step and I’m not sure what caused me to fall, but because there was no handrail there was nothing I could do to stop myself.

“My back was in agony straight away and it has never fully recovered since. I enjoyed my job and fully expected to continue working up until normal retirement age so it is upsetting that I’ve had to retire early due to this accident.”

Tim Roache from the GMB added: “This member’s injury has seen him suffer a great deal of pain and inconvenience as well as leading him to retire from his job earlier than planned. A simple risk assessment would have established that these steps should not have been in use without a handrail. The installation of a handrail – something employers must do by law - would have given this member something to steady himself and prevented the fall.”

Stephen Woolford from Thompsons Solicitors said: “The law is clear - handrails should be fitted on all staircases that are traffic routes. This accident proves that the regulations the government loves to attack are not just red tape but are a practical common sense approach to avoiding accidents in the workplace. Implementing them would have been a lot cheaper for the West Yorkshire Police than paying compensation to an injured worker.”