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Lift shaft maintenance – health and safety considerations


Although they are often very convenient and, when it comes to delivering heavy articles to upper floor properties, indispensable, lifts are nevertheless machines that operate in what can be very deep spaces indeed.


It stands to reason that they have specific safety regulations which are designed to protect both those who use them and those who carry out maintenance on them.


However, if those regulations are not observed and followed, both lift passengers and maintenance operatives can be put at risk.


Case study 1 (2017)


Two London-based companies have been fined for safety failings after one man died and another was left seriously injured falling six storeys down a lift shaft.


Work was being carried out to decommission a lift shaft in a building that was being converted into luxury apartments when the chain supporting the lift broke while two men were working on top of it, causing it to fall to the bottom of the shaft.


One of the men was wearing a harness attached to the top of the lift. Because he fell in the space between the lift and shaft, he survived with serious injuries.


The other man was not wearing a harness and died instantly.


The HSE carried out an investigation and found that the planning and management of the project was inadequate.


The principal contractor and employer on site pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay £27,408 in costs.


The contract manager was responsible for planning the decommissioning of lift shafts on site. He pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

He has been ordered to complete 120 hours’ community service and pay costs of £3,000.

rradar recommends:


Because of the risk, lifts can present and the subsequent high level of fatality, lifts must only be installed, maintained and repaired by competent workers.


The main health and safety legislation applicable to lifts is:


  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Duty of Care.

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – to assess risk, requirements for training, supervision.


Most sections in the following legislation apply:


  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)

  • The Working at Height Regulations 2005

  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)


And for the installation or alteration:


  • The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015


Before anyone installs, maintains or repairs lifts, the work must be carefully planned.

A suitable risk assessment must be completed with input from all who are involved in the project.


Depending on the work, method statements may be required and a “permit to work” system implemented.


All workers must be trained and have received all the relevant information.


Workers must be able to demonstrate their competency for the type of work they are going to undertake.


Consideration must be given to situations where there is a risk of falling from height and appropriate control measures must be implemented e.g. restricting access, using barriers, fall arrest equipment including harnesses, safety netting.


Before any work is carried out, all forms of energy to the lift MUST be isolated and locked out.

Lifts must be subject to periodic thorough examination and inspection, as required by LOLER and PUWER.


This link provides simple guidance from the HSE


A large amount of working on lifts is carried out when the premises are normally closed. This can mean the normal emergency provisions (contacts in case rescue is needed, etc.) would not be available.


As part of the initial planning, emergency provisions must be catered for. This could be by providing mobile fire-fighting equipment including a means of raising the alarm and ensuring first aid procedures are in place.


If you need advice contact our Health and Safety team by emailing contactus@rradar.com or speak to them at the rradarstation on 0800 955 6111 


In the News: Lift accidents that have caused injury or death over the previous years:


2014 – a lift engineer was severely injured when he fell down a lift shaft that was under construction. He suffered fractures to his left foot, shoulder, lower spine and pelvis and was unable to work for several months.


His employer was prosecuted by the HSE when it was found that guard rails across the entrance to the lift shaft were not high enough to meet regulatory requirements.


The company was fined £10,000 with costs of £5,225 after they pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.


2013 – a lift engineer was killed when he was electrocuted while working on a lift in Pentonville prison in North London.


The engineer had not isolated the lift from the power supply and an HSE investigation found that the employer had not provided a safe system of work for its field operatives, who were required to carry out work on live electrical systems.


It had not provided sufficient information and instruction concerning work on electrical systems nor supervised employees properly. It had also failed to make sure that the engineer’s equipment was fit for use.


The employer was fined £100,000 and had to pay the full costs of nearly £26,000.

2016 – a resident of a block of flats was killed when he and a friend were stuck in a malfunctioning lift and tried to escape. Although his friend escaped unhurt, the resident slipped and fell five stories, sustaining fatal injuries.


An HSE investigation discovered that the property maintenance company had not taken suitable and sufficient steps to stop the two men from attempting a self-rescue. It was revealed that the lift had a history of issues regarding its repair and maintenance both before and after the incident.


The property management company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They were fined £120,000 with costs of £45,000.


rradar offers a range of Health and Safety advice and legal support as well as innovative digital tools to help your business achieve legal freedom.


To find out how we can help your business, please call 01482 296 800 or email contactus@rradar.com

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