Lift Death: Significant failures in lift safety management results in death of toddler.

Published: 12 Feb 2019

Lift safety has been brought back into focus following the sentencing of two companies in the death of a five-year-old girl who became trapped while using a lift at her home in Weymouth.

This fatality highlights the failures in the relationship between landlord and managing agents. Catastrophic situations can occur when regulatory compliance is not met. With the Sentencing Guidance firmly in place it is no surprise that significant fines have been imposed.

It had been reported that on 13 August 2015, Alexys Brown got into the lift to get her brother’s phone from upstairs. She put her head through a hole in the vision panel and as the lift moved upward, the five-year-old’s head got stuck between the lift and the ground floor ceiling. Alexys died as a result of her injuries.

Aster Property Limited managed a contract with Orona Limited on behalf of Synergy Housing Limited. to ensure the lifts were maintained and repaired.

When one of the Perspex vision panels in the lift became damaged in early 2013, this was not fixed or replaced. In May 2015 an Orona engineer visited the property to inspect the lift and noted the vision panel was damaged.

The HSE investigation found a myriad of failures which implicated all 3 companies who were responsible for management of lift safety within the building.

Findings by HSE during the investigation included:

  • Tenants were not provided with safety critical information concerning the operation of the lift;
  • No risk assessment was carried out following the change of lift user when the Brown family moved in;
  • Concerns raised during service inspections were not addressed including:
    • The Perspex vision panel had been damaged for up to 18 months prior to the incident. On 12 May 2015, an Orona engineer completed a service inspection and, in his report, wrote “Routine service visit – Glass in door smashed!” but this was not fixed or replaced;
    • Problems with the emergency lowering and lack of emergency hand winding wheel during the whole of the Brown family’s tenancy, and which was shown in the documentation from at least January 2011;
    • The key switch used to control operation of the lift had been modified from factory installation to allow removal of the key in any position. Because the switch was in the “on” position with the key removed, it could be operated by anyone at any time.
  • Concerns raised by Alexys’ brother’s health workers were not taken seriously enough;
  • According to HSE guidance, lifts carrying people should be inspected every six months but, in this case, the lift was serviced only four times between 2009 and 2015 and was not thoroughly examined since 2012.

Synergy Housing Limited of Link House, West Street, Poole pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

Orona Limited of Europa View, Sheffield Business Park, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £533,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

This unfortunate accident could easily have been avoided if key health and safety requirements were put in place.

What can you do to limit exposure to prosecution?

  1. If for any reason a passenger lift is deemed unsafe, it needs to be taken out of action with immediate effect.
  2. The relevant signage needs to be put in place to inform persons of the hazards associated with the lift. This could also be done in line with a risk assessment where control measures are put in place to reduce/eliminate the exposure to the hazard.
  3. If the competent lift engineer identifies any defects that could pose an existing or immanent risk to personal safety, they are required by law to send a copy of the report to the relevant enforcing authority.
  4. Only once the passenger lift has been deemed to be safe by the competent lift safety engineer can it be put back in action.
  5. Statutory inspections (as per Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) need to be conducted on a 6 monthly basis by a competent lift safety engineer. Any defects identified during this inspection will also need to be suitably remedied to ensure the safe running of the passenger lift.
  6. Also ensure that routine planned maintenance is carried out on the passenger lift with remedial works carried out as required.

For further information regarding thorough examination and testing of lifts, please review the following:

To ensure that your company meets legal compliance, contact CSC today where our team of experts will be able to advise on your lift safety requirements.