HSE says man’s death was entirely preventable… A fine of £300,000 has been imposed on a lift manufacturer after a lift engineer working for the company died from crush injuries sustained while installing a new lift at Heathrow Airport.
The man, 45 was working on the new construction of Terminal 5A at the London airport when the accident occurred on 27 October 2007.
The accident victim was in the pit of the a lift shaft working on installing some new lift cars with some colleagues when a counterweight suddenly descended from above inflicting fatal crush injuries on him. The subsequent HSE investigation determined that the one of the accident victim’s workmates had used one of the cars to ascend to a higher level in order to get some equipment causing the counterweight to drop below into the pit where the accident victim was working.
The HSE was critical of the lift manufacturer for permitting its employees to use the lift cars despite the fact they were unfinished and lacking in critical safety components. Furthermore the HSE found that the company’s communications methods were far from satisfactory as workers would shout to one another between the lift shafts leading to confusing and ineffective information exchanges.
The HSE also reported that the lift manufacturer had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment of the potential impact of crushing from moving lift machinery and as a result had no plan in place to prevent this kind of accident occurring or even negating its impact. The HSE concluded that the company had failed in its duty to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their employees by allowing unsafe and unsupervised working practices to take place.
The hearing at Isleworth Crown Court saw the company plead guilty to breaches of Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £300,000 for the breaches and also was forced to pay costs of £169,970.
The HSE Inspector who investigated the case, Norman Macritchie spoke after the hearing:
“This death is a wake-up call for all involved in the installation and maintenance of lifts. His death was entirely preventable, and we need to ensure that nobody else suffers the same fate.
“It is hard to overstate the potential for death or serious injury arising from moving machinery, electricity and working at height – all of which are everyday risks in this industry.
“Lift shafts by their very nature are confined and often poorly-lit places, where heavy components can move suddenly, silently and without warning. Due planning and extreme care must be taken at all times. It wasn’t on this occasion and a life was needlessly lost as a result.”