Lift Safety

Katie Mooney from 4site Consulting looks at dutyholder responsibilities with a case study

A key aspect of block maintenance is managing and maintaining the facilities within the block, such as lifts, emergency lighting, gas and electric, and automated gates. As well as being a legal requirement, the dutyholder is responsible for ensuring that the facilities within the building are compliant and are safe for employees, residents and any visitors to the building. Lifts are just one of the facilities that can cause serious injury or even fatality if not properly maintained, and have been known to do so. This article will look at the dutyholder’s responsibilities when it comes to ensuring the safety of lifts and the consequences of failing to do so.

Dutyholder’s responsibilities

The dutyholder for the block may be the landlord or managing agent who will legally be responsible for maintaining any lifts so that they are safe to use. Under current regulations Lifts carrying people require servicing every 6 months and those carrying goods every 12 months; records for both should be maintained on site. It is very likely that the dutyholder will select and instruct a competent person to carry out these inspections; this will be someone who has sufficient technical and practical knowledge of the lift to be able to detect any deficiencies. The competent person here will most likely be from an external organisation as companies do not usually have the competence in-house. The dutyholder is responsible for keeping the selected competent person informed of any changes in the lift operating conditions and making relevant documentation available.

When a Health, Safety and Fire Risk Assessment is carried out on the block, the Risk Assessor will take into account whether or not lifting equipment is being maintained and inspected at the required intervals. They will also look at whether ‘Emergency Passenger Release Procedures’ are in place and displayed in the lifts; this is vital for ensuring that passengers have the correct safety advice should the lift get stuck or stop operating correctly. Residents should also be made aware that they should not use the lift in the event of a fire. Regularly servicing the lift is crucial for reducing the likelihood of it breaking down. However, if lifts were to break-down with passengers inside, there should be sufficient emergency lighting and ‘Emergency Passenger Release Procedures’ in place to ensure that passengers are not attempting the free themselves before competent help arrives.

Case Study

A high-profile case in 2014 saw a resident fall to their death after trying to escape from a lift that had broken-down between two floors of a block. Craig Jones, 27 fell to his death down a five-story lift shaft after attempting rescue himself from the broken-down lift at Marsden House in Bolton, where he lived.

The managing agent for the block was fined £120,000 plus another £45,000 in costs by criminal court, for a breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

They were also fined an additional £20,000 in a disciplinary hearing of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The hearing found that the Managing Agents did receive previous reports of the lift becoming stuck and passengers having to get themselves out, however, they had failed to investigate or rectify the situation.

When Mr Jones and his friend became stuck in the lift, they tried to raise the alarm but were not responded to due to fault with the emergency communication system. Those who manage lifts have a responsibility to ensure that if people are trapped, they are able to raise alarm and are not in a position to try to rescue themselves. Instructions on what to do in an emergency and how to raise the alarm should also be clear.

Mr Jones’ death was ruled as accidental and very much avoidable if the correct procedures were carried out by the organisation responsible for the block.

Revised Standards

Succeeding Mr Jones’ death, the British Standards in regards to lifts, were revised to change the mechanics of lifts to ensure the doors cannot be prised open. Any passenger lift placed into service after the 31st August 2017 needs to comply with the new safety standards for lift construction and testing, EN81-20 and EN81-50. These new standards aim to improve safety for passengers and technicians, with a particular focus on accessibility.

The HSE investigation into the lift fatality at Marsden House, also meant that other health and safety issues at the site came to surface. For instance, it found that the caretaker for the site, who should have been responsible for reporting any incidents or issues with facilities to the managing agents, did not have adequate training to do so. Block Managers are often responsible for managing onsite staff and as such should ensure they have the correct training in place, including that on health, safety and fire. In addition to this, onsite staff such as concierge or caretakers are often lone workers and although lone working itself is not against the law, it is vital that they are safe to do so and that employers take steps to reduce risk.

Conclusion

Managing and maintaining facilities such as lifts, is vital for ensuring the safety of a block. Failure to do so may not only result in hefty fines but serious injury or death. Lifts are included in the Health, Safety and Fire Risk Assessment and to ensure that they comply, the Risk Assessor needs to have proof that they are being serviced every 6 months and that emergency release procedures are available and clear. Furthermore, onsite staff should be trained and aware of their responsibilities for reporting any issues with facilities at the site.

If you would like further advice on your responsibilities contact the team at 4site Consulting on 01376 572936.